One woman's journey and dawning realization of the slow destruction of her spirit while trapped in the jaws of disability.

Disability is at first an affliction of the body, then a state of mind and finally a shackle upon the spirit.

Lydia M N Crabtree, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mourning, Discipline and Responsibility

I have been thinking about Vanderbilt and mourning. I think people with extended disabilities do mourn within a cycle. There is some point in time when someone has to point out that we are indeed hindered physically by what we are facing. The mourning period follows this revelation. Then throughout a protracted disability mourning occurs at some milestones. There is a revelation of permanent damage done to the body or a vision of some peer doing something that we would prefer to be able to personally accomplish. Mourning creeps upon us again and we have to learn to allow for that mourning.

I don’t really mourn, or at least, I don’t admit to mourning. Mostly because I often feel it is a form of pity party which isn’t what I want to be stuck within. This time around I have acknowledged that mourning is necessary and pity party is not what it is about. As the disabled work their way through the medical system in search of solutions or suggestions of solutions or firm diagnosis, we live a life building toward hope and then crashing when that hope is nothing more than an illusion. Unlike those who have a set disability or know what their limitations are those, like myself who are still looking for answers find that the emotional journey is more difficult in many ways than the physical one, hence my Shackled Spirit.

Knowing that the mind and body connection is an integral part of healing, the idea that we cannot find easy answers makes setting up a healthy mind set nearly impossible. I say “nearly” because I haven’t succumbed to despair completely, not yet.

As I have brooded over this issue a discussion about obesity and responsibility started up after I read a blog about the epidemic of unhealthy neo-pagans caused by obesity. Of course, our nation is in the grips of an epidemic of obesity and the community that is neo-paganism is only reflecting the actuality of the larger population.

It is responsibility, however, that has thwarted me and I wonder how many others struggle with this. For me responsibility and discipline are inexonerably linked. Responsibility and discipline in the community of those who are healthy seemed inexonerably linked with good health. This makes sense. Those who work out for four hours a week get 50% more benefit than those who only exercise three hours a week. I can only imagine what the health benefit is for those who regularly meditate versus those of us who meditate upon occasion. I recently watched a special on CBS’s Sunday Morning where Seventh Day Adventist were being studied. It seems that the religious requirements of the Adventist are causing them to live longer more productive lives than non-Adventists. They eat healthier, work out on a regular basis, have an intimate spiritual connection with a community and meditate and pray on a regular basis.

New research demonstrates that some of the most beneficial health results come from having and participating in an extended community. Belonging and being active in a church or club or some other group. I feel that for neo-pagans, this is one that is very difficult to achieve. The numbers of viable, healthy groups available for participation are limited and those limited groups often harbor a wariness or cliquishness that makes it difficult for new persons to become involved. This speaks to a discussion regarding communal responsibility to those who identify as like mind and are outside the scope of this blog – this time.

Finding and managing ones illness through traditional means of responsibility come discipline is being in a leaking ship while navigating  uncharted water of illness undefined and disability difficult to manage. From one day to the next my physical and mental capabilities shift making setting some disciplined exercise or even sleep wake schedule hard to do. I would say impossible; however, I am not so sure that it is. I would love to hear from others who are disabled and discuss how discipline and responsibility play a role in their continued illness.

I feel there is so much more to say on each of these, I may just have to break them down. Writing later and expanding on mourning, discipline and responsibility.


  1. Lydia,

    I've been thinking a lot about the topic of the obesity article and how it is fraught with a combination of privilege and real concern. There are so many factors we need to take into account, and responsibility, discipline and choice are only one axis. An important axis, to be sure, but when we have systemic hurdles to good health from agribusiness and food corporations who have conspired to load the market with cheap, non-nourishing foods that directly impact our health and our communities, we need to remember that personal responsibility is but one part of the equation.

    Thank you for speaking your truth, and writing of your illness. I have students - all of whom must have some sort of exercise program that is suited to their health and body ability - some of whom struggle from the aftermath of invasive cancer surgery, or imbalanced hormones. They exercise and eat well - often spending money they can ill afford - and are still not thin. Conversely, I know other people who are actively in bad health, some of it from lack of exercise and good food, who are simply not choosing to make the changes that will enable them to even get out of a chair with greater ease.

    These are tricky topics and we would all do well to bring compassion to the table.

    Please write more when you have the energy.

  2. Lydia, I do what I can for my health when I can. Such as walking my dog, doing exercises in a chair, calming breath meditation, and affirmations. It also includes taking my medication on time and eating well. I think the hardest part is not berating myself when I "backslide" Sometimes I just can't take as long of a walk as I want to. I've used several puffs on the inhaler and I must go home. (It gets really humid in Missouri even in the morning and evening during the summer.) Sometimes I get wrapped up in other things such as writing or mindless games to deal with my PTSD and I don't do my meditation even though I know in the long run those important exercises will aid in healing my mind.

    I would like to be smarter about how I shop so I can have more fresh fruits and vegetables to last the month. Also, as you pointed out, community is a very important part of healing and sustaining that spiritual and physical strength. I live in a small town and thought about attending my mother's Christian church since the people are more open minded. But I feared being discovered as a Pagan and causing social issues for her. I don't think she cared though because she is always inviting me.

    Thorn, I agree it is a tricky topic and it's important that the community deals with it compassionately. From the posts and comments I've read since Sunday, they have been.

  3. Thank you Thorn and Tara. Most of my musings are that...musings. What turns over in the back of my mind as I attempt to deal with my personal journey. Recently I have come to realize that perspective also plays an important part in this type of discussion. What I have learned most though is that no discussion, isolation and ignoring these critical issues is more harmful than compassion viewpoints brought together to help build a better picture of the issues under discussion. I crave that. I believe strongly that open minds, with honest perspective and compassion hearts will bring us the map to unity.

  4. Dia, I am so glad you are writing about this. I keep saying this on every blog I respond to... there is so much more to this than weight and making a assumption of health. There is a lot of cultural sensitivity that is also lacking as well. One person's version of health or healthy living may not be the same as my family and my culture. We all do what we can in our own limits and with our own desires or goals. You are a incredible person that shows health despite health issues. Health is not just physical, it is mental, emotional and everything else. We have to stop thinking so narrowly and I am glad you posted this to open up the lines of the box we create in our constricted thinking as a community. Thank you.