Three years ago today on April 19th, 2011 I sat in a small, crowded waiting room wearing a flimsy blue gown and paper slippers. For three hours my mom held my hand as I waited my turn with a racing heart to have my name called for surgery. I had made a choice to be there and yet felt completely terrified and as though I was in line to meet my maker. While I was waiting to have a relatively ‘minor’ thyroid surgery, it's in moments like these that we face our vulnerability, our humanness, and the fragility of it all. When they did call my name I started crying and got on the bed-on-wheels that would roll me into the cold depths of the surgery suite. On some level I think I knew that everything was about to change.
© 2014 Marie-Ève Bonneau
This surgery was the catalyst for what would prove to be three of the most challenging and profoundly transformative years of my life. A few days after this photo was taken—about ten days after the procedure—it started in full force. The surgery had left my system weak and combined with how intense of a schedule I had been maintaining performing, teaching yoga and dance, and trying to stay afloat in what felt like a hectic world, my energetic immunity was already way down. The surgery sent me over the edge.
I felt like I had been hit by a truck and the feeling didn’t go away. It would take almost two years, countless doctors, and endless tests before I got my diagnosis. Lyme disease. They say a tick transmits this super bug but in over half the cases the symptoms appear after a trauma—surgery, divorce, or even running a marathon. But this post is not about Lyme. Nope. It’s about being real and it’s about bravery. Not just acknowledging mine but yours too.
We all know that social media serves largely as a sharing space for highlight reels. We see and celebrate each others marriages with scarce mention of our break ups. We share our beautiful babies and pets, inspiring quotes and fabulous vacations. We post fun times at parties with friends and yet our sick days, challenges, and bleaker moments are mostly or entirely unmentioned. As a result, a lot of our bravery goes uncelebrated and I know that we are a seriously courageous bunch.
I never thought this photo would see the light of day—no makeup and a big slice across the front of my throat—but I happen to show it to one of my closest friends last night along with some other photos of past loves and other times and places. She’s someone whose there for the celebrations and also on those tough days. She’s been there for me long after shits gotten real. She reminds me every time we hang out that giving voice to our experience is healing in itself.
There is profound healing in the telling of our stories and so increasingly I am choosing to tell mine. Not just the shiny bits of my story but also the mucky messy uncomfortable parts of being human and what I’m learning along the way. When all this happened I had way too much shame to talk about it. I wore scarves and acted like nothing had happened. It took me a couple years to forgive myself enough to share my story.
Maybe this will inspire you to share more of your story too. We are connected not only in our joys but also through our regrets, through our challenges, and through our vulnerability. Mostly though, we are connected through our brave human hearts.
© 2014 Marie-Ève Bonneau