Dear Audy,

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. Had I known that I would be going dark for such a long time, I might have let you know. However, I did not know and could not tell that the shades were about to drop, nor that the light would remain blocked until I had learnt to thrive in the darkness.

I have been cocooning.

Click image for source

Click image for source

This year brought some of the toughest challenges that I have faced during my seven years in chronic pain. My flares increased, my body deteriorated and my options faded away into blurry memories.

My hands were taken completely, stealing my ability to write, to pet my dogs, even to feed myself at times. My voice was silenced, trapped behind the grate of a malfunctioning jaw and inside fingers too sore to type. My body was plagued by injury, increasing my levels of incapacitation until rising from bed was a painful luxury. My strength was fully depleted, drained by disuse of my muscles and overuse of insufficient coping mechanisms.

It was a lot.

I felt like I was losing myself to the illness. I was too broken, too faded, to continue on without changing into a person who can cope with more than a lot.

I knew that it was possible to cope with more. I knew that limits placed on how many blows I believed I could take before breaking were all placed by my mind. Many times, I have watched helplessly as CRPS progressed through my body and in each instance, I have learnt to handle my new situation. Coping meant not accepting that there was a level of pain at which I could not cope. Even bedridden and unable to speak, I had to find a way to be OK so that I could always be ready to make the most of things if the pain abated enough to let me move.

It’s funny how often people speak about wanting to “get back” to stages in their lives that felt safer, more secure, or less painful than their current situation. For a long time, I have wanted to get back to the person that I was before CRPS. I have wanted to get back to my old life, get back to my old dreams. It’s funny because returning the past is never an option. It’s funny because we grow every day. Even if the universe would allow it, getting back to a time that we lived through before would never be the same because we didn’t just live through it, we grew through it. We’re different now.

I wonder how much human discontent is caused by the common desire to hoard? Be it objects, people, or those parts of ourselves that we cling to in a desperate effort to establish an unchanging identity.

Society loves to preach that if we “be ourselves” then we will be happier, as though a self is a static thing, an ingrained truth, an unchangeable fact. Sometimes, I think that identity can be an invisible obstacle blocking the path to a happier existence. Everything is transient…everything…including us, our pain, what we think and feel, what we desire and despise, and how we perceive our places in our lives.

As the months passed and the pain kept me silenced and still, I fought against accepting that, in all likelihood, I would never “get back to normal”. Not even the sort of normal in which I had previously functioned a little in spite of the pain.

I had to let go of the desire to go back, so that I could let go of the agony. I had to watch my mind, my thoughts, notice their effects on my emotions and learn to let go of patterns that weren’t helpful. Really let go, not just try and hope that’s what I was doing.

It’s not an easy thing to detach from one’s identity.

I had attached a lot of aspects to this person that I thought I was. I was a partner, a daughter, a friend. I was a chronically ill person, a person with CRPS, a disabled person. I was friendly, upbeat and a little bit odd. I was a blogger, a writer, an avid social media over-sharer. I was unhappy with this hand that life dealt me, but attempting to be an inspired individual in spite of things that I couldn’t change.

I was everything and nothing that I thought I was.

I looked closer and closer at the ever-flowing river of thoughts that I call my mind. Whenever I started to feel uncomfortable, I looked for why, for the tiny creeks of beliefs, biases and perceptions that fed into that river, just upstream from the deep waters of pain. I realised how many of those were trenches that I had dug at some point, without even realising that the shovel was in my hands.

My self was never a thing that was lost, or a prize to be found. My identity was a construct, a convolution of decisions, an illusion. My identity wasn’t a thing that I was, it was a thing that I was creating.

I am not my thoughts, I am the thinker. I am not my beliefs, I am the believer.

I needed to change into a person who can cope with more than a lot. Changing who I was wouldn’t actually change anything because the “who” of me was just an interpreted result. The thing that needed changing was the how of me. How did I want to be? How did I want to handle my life, with all of its challenges and blessings?

I realised that I didn’t need to “get back” to anything that I was before. I needed to move forward into something new.

I felt like a blank slate. Enter: the cocoon. I needed to separate myself from the feeds of online information and opinions that I’d spend hours getting lost in. I needed distance from friends and familiar routines. I needed separation from the influence of others so that I had space to start rebuilding my life out of the pieces that my last chapter smashed me into.

Changing started with the little things…a breath, a thought, a decision. Changing continues…

Completion is for craft projects, not people.

I am peeking out at the world from the sheaths of silk that envelop my evolving self and for the first time in ages, I can see them again. The possibilities. They’re everywhere.

Love & Motion,

P.S. I am way, way out of touch with everything. Friends, news, memes…all of it. One does not simply check Facebook notifications when one is cocooning. I’m going to venture back into this whole communicating thing slowly. I look forward to knowing stuff about you again. Also, I have a lot to say.

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  • 6 thoughts on “Cocooning

    1. Elle and the Auto Gnome

      Hiya lovely, I have been thinking of you and wishing you well, if only we could do more from afar, eh? Sounds like you’ve been on one heck of a journey. It’s wonderful to ‘see’ you again and read your words that are infused with such positivity and forward motion despite what you’ve been going through. Sending love and a virtual cuppa (with one of my handy metal straws if required), big hugs, from me, xx

      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Thank you! It’s nice to be getting back into the virtual world again, I missed this place. Sending hugs right back at ya! xoxo

    2. Ross

      Good to see that your back writing and coping better than you were. We’ve been to hell and back with this illness and it’s good to see you moving forward and getting through all of that. Keep fighting!

      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Thanks Ross! It’s wonderful to be able to use my hands again, I missed writing. Always fight on! :)

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