This month I got to share my story of how I became a lymphedema therapist and some insights in my life due to having lymphedema. I spoke at the Texas chapter of Lymphedema Education and Research Network. I met so many other people who have had lymphedema, both primary and secondary and have dedicated time, effort, soul into the pursuit of a cure and educating others. I didn’t feel alone.
This sounds obvious because I have dedicated so much of my adult life into coping with lymphedema and ultimately helping others; however being in this group of people felt different. It was the community of new comers, lymphies who have had lymphedema for years, and medical professionals who dedicate their lives to helping those with lymphedema. Even my mom, fiancee, and best friends attended.
Shame is the belief that you are inherently bad at some level. It can sound like, “I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy.” Shame isolates us from connection with others.
Bible talk: In the story of Adam and Eve, they did the one thing God asked them not to do (ate an apple from the tree of knowledge) and understood that they were not perfect. They hid in the woods from God because they realized they didn’t have clothes (i.e. were naked, were vulnerable). They disconnected from their loving source because they were ashamed. Hence setting the stage for reconcilliation of the human spirit and our loving source; however that discussion is beyond the scope of this post. It is worth noting though this book starts with a poem noting, God created the world and it was GOOD.
Shame festers like a wound that hasn’t been cleaned out if we keep closed and isolated. If you are not perfect, welcome to being a human. Sharing these parts of our self in community can be so powerful in reminding us that we are good. We just might have some swelling in our body. Sharing struggles we are going through allows other people to say, “Me too!”.
Sometimes I like to think about common human issues in ancient cultures to humor myself. I bet ancient egyptians dealt with things that we do today. “Annoying, my chisel broke and now I’m going to have to stay at work an hour late to get my notes done.” “I went out on a date with that pottery guy and he creeped me out.” “My cats tore up my papyrus homework.” Perhaps people more than 2000 years ago also dealt with feeling like they are not good enough or had to deal with some leg swelling too. And they lived their lives.
In our imperfections, we can connect and celebrate being human. We are not alone.