Most of us of a certain age would have been saddened by the recent death of one of my heroes, Neil Armstrong, the first man to have stepped on the surface of the moon. Heroes are hard to come by these days; they appear to be in short supply. If you were to ask people if they had a hero, someone they admire and respect, they would all give their personal take on the subject; after all we are so very uniquely different.
I think Neil Armstrong was a reluctant hero. He shunned his celebrity status, the limelight, wanting to be separate from the ‘man on the moon syndrome’ and get on with his everyday life. Facing the everyday mundane and challenges that scleroderma brings can help make heroes of us all, albeit reluctant, all fuelled up with nowhere to go. We may on occasions feel blasted into some kind of outer space experience, an orbit unknown to us, a whole series of circumstances, psychological trials and relational challenges.
As s therapist I have met many people who, for whatever reason, want to escape a relationship that causes them pain. Some have tried to escape into mood changing substances, some into new relationships and others into whatever takes their fancy. However most people want to just stop and take a look at their relationships, their behaviour and overcome, gain control and get on with living their lives. In my thinking this determination and tenacity makes them a hero, albeit a reluctant one.
Sometimes we need to hide emotionally, deny or minimise the impact scleroderma is having on ourselves and on our loved one. Seeing someone you love fighting to gain control over their body, feelings, mobility and environment can leave us feeling powerless. Sometimes we escape into work, activity, or nothingness, beyond the gravitational pull, floating into space for a time, anything rather than face the evitable loss, hurt and of course grief that follows on like an ugly sister. We recall past experiences, painless, fun times when we had dream as we wait patiently for that beauty which comes with acceptance, that acceptance of chronic illness and all it brings.
Surviving the impact of scleroderma means developing a psychological coping strategy, a kind of temporary agreement with ourselves that does not deny pain, anger and hurt, neither does it blitz these emotions out onto others. If we’re propitious we’ll maybe find another hero who will listen as we take this unexpected and unusual journey. Hero's after all are made not born, they tackle the problem to release the gifts and gifts can come in the shape of people, people just like you!