When we imagine an ideal world, it’s pretty safe to say that for most of us, that perfect world wouldn’t include illness, disabilities, and death. Everyone would have bodies that are strong, capable, and able to do any and all activities the heart desires. On this side of creation, that type of world doesn’t exist, and because it doesn’t, it’s imperative that we understand that there will come a day that our bodies will fall short of the glory that often exists in our mind; and as sure as the sun rises each morning, one day we will all surrender to death. For those who come to the Lifestyle during the more impressionable years of early adulthood, usually illness and death isn’t such a pressing matter unless one has experienced a life-threatening illness or disability. However, if one lives long enough, chances are there will be some type of health challenge even if it’s a really horrible case of bronchitis that lingers for weeks; the cronies who were there pretty much from the beginning begin to age and start to pass away… and it doesn’t matter how old or young they were – it was always too soon, and there was never enough time. When illness and death hit home and a blood relative, Master or slave is affected, it can be an experience that tears at the soul. Yet, it doesn’t have to be an experience that leaves the soul crushed and defeated, and this is what this post is about, helping others hold on to the silver lining and lean into the light at the end of the tunnel no matter how bleak circumstances may seem.
Up until 2011, the only issue that I struggled with was living with a permanent disability. Then 2011 came and I could finally afford health insurance. Actually, it was exciting to me to be able to get that part of my ‘house’ in order. Well, it was exciting until that first doctor’s visit and finding out that I needed to see a surgeon… And surgery was scheduled… and during that surgery, another issue was discovered… another surgeon, another surgery. Complications from that surgery – yes you guessed it, another surgeon, and another surgery to the tune of three surgeries between March 2011 and April 2012. While sitting in the office of the second surgeon as he explained the need for another surgery, I clearly remembered breaking down crying, almost uncontrollably and in between heavy sobs expressing that, “my body is failing and just falling apart!” April 2012 came and there was no fight left in me, which was apparent by the lack of pre-surgery prep done for food and home. This was probably the lowest point for me in regards to my journey as a slave… The pressing question in my mind was, “Who would want such a scarred slave? What Master would want me like this?” Even, now, as I remember where I was during the time after the last surgery, my heart hurts for the me that once was. The way my body changed coupled with the preexisting disability made me believe that as a slave, I was ‘unusable’, too damaged to be owned, and couldn’t be beneficial to a Master. In hindsight, of course, it seems foolish, but in my mind, at the time it seemed to be legitimate.
In the midst of recovering from the last surgery in 2012 and making steps to move forward in my slave walk, my dad fell ill, went into the hospital and had emergency surgery. He was several states away from me and I wasn’t able to travel to him. Each day was filled with phone calls to doctors and relatives (mostly his brothers), working, worrying, and managing. This went on for about 2 – 2 ½ weeks. He wasn’t doing too well after the surgery, he was experiencing breathing complications, he couldn’t swallow, and so the hardest decisions had to be made… Finally, one Wednesday during the wee hours of the morning, a nurse from the hospital called to let me know my dad had passed. Long story short, it would take about another month before his remains could be buried. It was a month of stress, tears, and frustrations until finally, his cremains were buried. Two days later, I crashed emotionally; I had already started grief/stress eating and that continued for a few months. When it was all said and done about 60-70lbs I had gained from 2011. All I wanted to do was cut myself off from the rest of the world, wave a white flag, and let the chips fall where they may. Here I was attempting to get back on the proverbial horse and it seemed that I was being knocked off before my foot was even in the stirrup!
None of this was something I was able to handle alone – the time had come where I couldn’t depend on myself. Really, there’s no such thing as pulling yourself up by your bootstrap to overcome devastating calamities – it’s a silly metaphor for being completely self-reliant, and we weren’t created for such. I needed help, I needed tools to work with and piece by piece they came. Here some tools that helped me recover from this rough patch:
- Get counseling – there’s nothing wrong with seeing a therapist to work through the emotional struggles of coping with a long or short-term illness, disability, and/or death. This isn’t to say that everyone who experiences such needs counseling, however, there are those who do. Even if it’s for a few sessions, much can be achieved by having a neutral space to sort out the jumble of emotions present. A really great counselor will offer more detailed coping techniques that can further assist in keeping some level of mental and emotional stability in the midst of adversity
- Receive help – this is so very important! During all three of the surgeries, there were folks from the local M/s and Leather communities that pitched in to help me with chores and getting to and from doctor’s appointments until I was able to do those things on my own. Initially, I didn’t want to ask for help, I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. Hello – that was foolishness! If help is needed, simply saying, “I need help,” doesn’t suddenly turn a person into an oaf. This taught me to take full advantage of such graciousness for as long as the need was there. Not only did folks from the Lifestyle help me, but people in grocery stores and in my apartment building did as well. Now, admittedly, some people have a limit for how much they can or will help, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent to asking for help – just ask someone else. As the saying goes, “a closed mouth don’t get fed.”
- Get involved in the community – while it may not be necessary to go to every event, munch, play party, meeting, or conference, it’s very important to maintain some level of involvement or connection to the Lifestyle community. Up to this point, most of the ‘tips’ haven’t directly addressed maintaining an M/s headspace, but this one accomplishes that more directly. Attending MDHL-fs (Male Dominant Het Leather-female submissive) and MAsT (Masters And slaves Together) meetings, volunteering at The Master/slave conference, and having a Masterly influence all helped keep me from disconnecting from the ‘slave self’ that I had been working so hard on growing prior to life doing what life does. Those moments spent immersing myself in community activities and even attending a MTTA slave training weekend all provided fellowship opportunities to reinforce everything I desired to be and was becoming. More importantly, it helped me to more fully understand that just because the sky is falling, that doesn’t stop me from being a slave.
- Maintain a routine that grounds – it doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as having a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper each morning, it’s a point of stability that adds to a level of normalcy in each day. Outside of going to work each day (which can add to stress and frustration at times), there needed to be something just for me – which has been investing in my health.
- Prepare the tangibles – having in place things such as a will (including a living will) and executor; a power of attorney (POA); or at the very least an advocate to help sort things out will reduce a great amount of stress during these challenging situations. This is taking responsibility by preparing a game plan before the time of need and doing so will reduce frustration levels tremendously. More than likely had I had an advocate (someone to help ask the tough questions, help do research, or see what you’re too emotional to see) to go with me for the very first visit with a surgeon, at the very least the second surgery, possibly, could have been avoided.
- Focus on what you can do not what you can’t do – when it comes to experiencing mobility/health challenges, this is so crucial and can’t be stressed enough! One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is to joyfully accept my limitations while creatively working around them. Whether our abilities occur as the result of aging or otherwise, there’s still joy to be found in the remaining capabilities. By constantly focusing on the limitations, a slave’s zest for service will begin to wane; it also sours the disposition by opening the door for a myriad of negative thoughts and comparisons to take center stage.
The specifics of what will be helpful to you or anyone else may be different, but more than likely, any of them will fall under at least one of these categories of preparing or managing.
There will be healing…
Nothing was ‘fixed’ with the snap of my fingers. It took much internal work and mental restructuring over the course of two years to come to a point of having greater confidence in my value as a slave and woman and to make it beyond the devastation of the setbacks I’ve just shared. Do you want to know what’s so ironic in all of this? If it weren’t for reaching a point of helplessness and brokenness in the midst of chaos, I would have been too prideful to see my own heart and value as a slave. There are plenty of things that can be offered, but those things simply don’t replace the offering of the heart and soul. That level of the offering is bare and raw because it happens at the core; there’s a depth that can’t be seen as much when we, as slaves only focus on a skillset. What I had to learn was that while what a slave can do is of value, it’s who the slave is that’s the greatest value. Being physically/emotionally capable of doing everything and never asking for and/or needing help isn’t what makes a slave a slave or more precious as a slave. When life hits us hardest, it’s even more important to admit our frailties and vulnerabilities so that we may be strengthened, not just through the internal work and all the self-care, but by also receiving the care, love, and nurturing of community, a few close friends, relative, or Master – this is one of the greatest resources to overcoming those ‘life happened’ times.