In the past, I have devoted this day, FATHER’S DAY, to honoring fathers and, of course, I do so today, as well, wishing a grand day for all fathers – my husband, not least of all – who are being celebrated.

I’m devoting this blog, however, to one written recently by Therese Borchard, a woman who never ceases to amaze and inspire me. Her daily blog, Beyond Blue, is not a personal confessional. Although she does write very courageously about her personal demons, she often cites books and blogs she has read, people she has met – all in the hope of sharing what has helped her and what she hopes will help others. She has also authored “BEYOND BLUE: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes” and “THE POCKET THERAPIST: An Emotional Survival Kit,” in addition to moderating an on-line depression support group, Beyond Blue.

With her permission, I am sharing her blog of June 16, 2010: STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES: ON LIVING BRAVELY WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS.I trust you will find her comments and references to be as helpful and inspiring as I did. Her voice and her message is what compelled me to give it even broader exposure by re-printing it here. In fact, I am doing what she does and what she and others have been generous enough to do for me.

This particular blog resonated with me as I have suffered from chronic migraines most of my adult life. Although I consider myself to be an advocate for mental health, and my book, FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness, is my story of early childhood trauma and the need to interrupt the cycle of family dysfunction, I have yet to write about the debilitating, life-altering struggle anyone living with chronic illness and/or pain experiences.

For those readers who do not suffer from debilitating emotional or physical pain, this is not meant to depress you but to help you to better understand the challenges faced by people whom you may care deeply about but have not been able to appreciate what their lives are like each day they live with chronic pain.

As I believe that education should always serve to free us from ignorance and to expand our understanding of what it means to be truly human, it is in that spirit that I share Therese’s blog.
From: BEYOND BLUE, posted Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I love this man. Richard Cohen. I love him. His mantra is mine. His hope I cling to. He inspires me. He tells the story of coping with his multiple sclerosis and colon cancer in his New York Times bestseller, “Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness.” A while back, he came out with a fascinating book, “Strong at the Broken Places: Voices of Illness, a Chorus of Hope,” profiling five brave persons battling illness. Writes Richard, “These are the faces of illness in America. Do not look away. The characters may surprise you, even shatter a stereotype or two. They are people, not cases, survivors, not victims. Quite simply, they are us. they carry shared resolve, a determination to survive. To flourish.”

I read parts of the book two years ago. I was especially intrigued and awed by Larry Frick’s story. Diagnosed in 1984 with bipolar disorder, he spent much of the mid 80s in and out of mental hospitals. Now he’s a mental health professional (that’s an understatement … he spoke at a White House conference where the first surgeon general’s report on mental health was released). I will have the honor of meeting Larry in person in a few weeks, which is why I pulled out the book again. Upon reading it, I knew that I had to share it with you all. Below I excerpt from Richard’s preface.

“We, the injured, are everywhere. We are fast becoming a nation of the sick. The numbers do not lie. Chronic illness has become the silent flood, flowing slowly, steadily under our doors. We tumble in slow-motion from safe ground, twisting and struggling to survive in a cold sea of all that we once were and can be no more.
Chronic conditions attack body and spirit, assaulting the quality of our lives. Some are life-threatening. All are life-altering. Ever so slowly, moment by moment, function and sensation cease. Muscles and nerves malfunction. The body’s processes grow difficult. Our view of ourselves as normal human beings making our way in a neutral world is challenged as, in the eyes of others, we become our illnesses.

Chronic conditions do not resolve themselves. Unlike terminal illnesses, there is no high drama with these diseases. They are not sexy, and are little noticed or understood by an unknowing public that would prefer not to think about them. Those who are hit hard know the frustration of being marginalized, reduced, and pushed to the side by these chilly attitudes. We are handed a cocktail of condescension and a basket of doubts about our limitations. The crisis of confidence that follows can be contagious and soon affects every part of our being.

With chronic illness, every facet of a once-robust life is overtaken and redefined. From the ability to find and hold jobs to the capacity to build and sustain personal relationships, the facts of a sick person’s world change dramatically. The slow slide down carries us, and we lose control.

Still, we go on. We double the effort, for what is the option? Too often, we remain silent. We are a hidden population, invisible except to ourselves and those who love us. When I wrote Blindsided, I felt alienated and isolated. I now know I am not alone. Many travel the same road, and common ground lies beneath our feet.

We have so much at stake and so much to say, but it can take years of battle with our own demons to recognize the power of what we have to offer each other. Nobody will speak for us with the authority we bring to our own stories. Where so many among us find the resolve and the inner strength to rise up and keep going is a mystery to me. That we do serves as pure inspiration…

Hemingway had it right. If the world is not the enemy, neither is it our friend. In the end, no matter who surrounds us, we travel alone. Our friends and loved ones are there, providing an infrastructure of love and support. But courage must be drawn from within. Let the world see us as we see ourselves and have the faith to permit us do it our way.”

Here’s to having faith … and may we all feel empowered to succeed by doing it “our way!”