It’s always darkest before the Dawn


I don’t like talking about this: I am an intensely private man, except when it comes to religion – and I dislike giving my enemies cause for celebration. But I should probably mention this as it’s been impacting my life in a lot of ways, including here.

I have been struggling with three chronic ailments, and atypical symptoms that indicated a fourth. About 6-8 weeks ago those symptoms intensified to the point where I’ve spent nearly every day in excruciating pain. We’ve been to several doctors, eventually leading to a specialist in lyme disease who diagnosed and is in the process of treating me. I was warned that this would make things worse before they got better and that has indeed been the case. Because of the current opioid hysteria I can’t get anything effective to help manage the pain (particularly my joints, which seem always to be on fire) and alternative methods such as stretching, meditation, herbs, etc. have brought only minimal and temporary relief. And while this may be the worst it’s only one of several ailments I’m currently dealing with.

As you can imagine this hasn’t been great for my interpersonal relationships or mental health. I’ve had some pretty down days. Even contemplated suicide at one point. It’s been challenging keeping up with my correspondence, even when it’s about important religious stuff. And not just because I’m down so many spoons.

This illness has revealed some of the weaknesses in my spiritual life and practices, and created some new ones as well. I’ve had to face shit I just never thought would be an issue for me.

And you know what? I’m thankful for that.

Don’t get me wrong. This process has sucked. I wouldn’t wish it on even my worst enemies.

But in addition to bringing to light areas I need to work on it also showed me that even at my lowest, most hopeless point I love Dionysos. I will hold to him. I will do everything in my power to serve him. Even when I’m so caught up in pain and despair that I can’t see, feel or hear him. There were times I wondered if he had stopped caring about me, or worse that our whole history together had been a lie, a delusion. And I just didn’t give a shit. Dionysos is fucking awesome, whether he exists or not. I prayed to him. Made offerings. Read about him. Did what I could for his people. And whatever else I was able to, as I was able to.

And he’s made himself known to me in a bunch of small ways, and even helped when it got really bad. The fact that he hasn’t done more, and some random kledones I’ve received – later confirmed through divination – led me to believe that this was something I needed to go through, that it was in some way initiatory and so he could not interfere.

And that excites me because I think I know where this is leading. 

7 thoughts on “It’s always darkest before the Dawn

  1. Wyrd things are so cool. A friend posted the Spoon Theory this morning, so I know what you were referring to. For others not familiar with the theory:

    . . . . . . . The Spoon Theory:
    •My best friend & I were in the diner, talking. As usual, it was very late & we were eating French fries with gravy. Like normal girls our age, we spent a lot of time in the diner while in college, and most of the time we spent talking about boys, music or trivial things, that seemed very important at the time. We never got serious about anything in particular and spent most of our time laughing.
    •As I went to take some of my medicine with a snack as I usually did, she watched me with an awkward kind of stare, instead of continuing the conversation. She then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have [Lupus, RA, etc.] and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about [Lupus, RA, etc.] She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?
    •I started to ramble on about pills, & aches & pains, but she kept pursuing, and didn’t seem satisfied with my answers. I was a little surprised as being my roommate in college & friend for years; I thought she already knew the medical definition of [Lupus, RA, Etc.]. Then she looked at me with a face every sick person knows well, the face of pure curiosity about something no one healthy can truly understand. She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.
    •As I tried to gain my composure, I glanced around the table for help or guidance, or at least stall for time to think. I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being effected, & give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity. I could have given up, cracked a joke like I usually do, & changed the subject, but I remember thinking if I don’t try to explain this, how could I ever expect her to understand. If I can’t explain this to my best friend, how could I explain my world to anyone else? I had to at least try.
    •At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes & said “Here you go, you have [Lupus, RA, etc]”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.
    •I explained that the difference in being sick & being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.
    •Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, & energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case [Lupus, RA, etc] being in control.
    •She grabbed the spoons with excitement. She didn’t understand what I was doing, but she is always up for a good time, so I guess she thought I was cracking a joke of some kind like I usually do when talking about touchy topics. Little did she know how serious I would become?
    •I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, & I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never- ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed & said she wanted more. I said no, & I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, & we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years & haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, & not to drop them because she can never forget she has [Lupus, RA, etc].
    •I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off & took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, & then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, & if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today & tomorrow too.” I quickly took away a spoon & she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair & shaving her legs. Reaching high & low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon, but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I stopped her & broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, & then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.
    •I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, & she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, & unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.
    •We went through the rest of the day, & she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.
    When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.
    •I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes & asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?” I explained that some days were worse then others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away & I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared”
    •Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, & not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, & the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it & make a plan like I am strategizing a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick & healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think & just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”.
    •After we were emotional & talked about this for a little while longer, I sensed she was sad. Maybe she finally understood. Maybe she realized that she never could truly and honestly say she understands. But at least now she might not complain so much when I can’t go out for dinner some nights, or when I never seem to make it to her house & she always has to drive to mine. I gave her a hug when we walked out of the diner. I had the one spoon in my hand and I said “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”
    •Ever since this night, I have used the spoon theory to explain my life to many people. In fact, my family & friends refer to spoons all the time. It has been a code word for what I can & cannot do. Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding [Lupus, RA, etc] but anyone dealing with any disability or illness. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. I give a piece of myself, in every sense of the word when I do anything. It has become an inside joke. I have become famous for saying to people jokingly that they should feel special when I spend time with them, because they have one of my “spoons”.
    •by Christine Miserandino

    Best Wishes from the Texas Gulf Coast.

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  2. I find your title oddly fitting, as it was Florence and the machines “shake it off” that helped me out of my darkest period and put one foot on the road to recovery. I too suffer from chronic ailments and was on a strong dose of tramadol before I got pregnant. I’ve had various diagnoses and spent four years in a wheelchair.

    When I was struggling, your advice was to “let Him break you”. I did, it hurt, but it am stronger than ever. I am out of the wheelchair, I am not using a stick, I’m even getting out and about independently without pain relief. I’m still in therapy but that’s an ongoing process.

    You can do this, He’s got you

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