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The ABCs of CIRS

What being a canary has taught me about life. (This is something I wrote about five years ago, but I thought it might be nice to share it again.)

A - Almost all of the things you think you absolutely cannot do, you’ll find really can do when you run out of other options.

B - Being perfectly healthy is not necessary for happiness, but being in agonizing pain will surely deny you it.

C - Crazy ideas can be understood as sensible with a brilliant teacher. Sensible ideas can reveal themselves as crazy sometimes, too, but it usually requires that things go all pear-shaped before we get it.

D - Daylight is only synonymous with hope when you do not have a migraine.

E - Empathy is blocked by fear and built by courage.

F - Food is amazing. If you aren't allergic, just enjoy the heck out of it. None of us who are severely allergic would ever want you to give up pizza if you don't have to!

G - Good nutrition, good doctors, and healthy living are sometimes all you can find to bail the water trying to sink your boat, but nothing beats finding dry land.

H - Homeless people are just regular folks who ran out of options. Don't pass up a chance to ask them their name, tell them yours, and share a laugh. If you want to give them something, give them something you would want.

I - Immune systems aren't all quite ready for Monsanto.

J - Just go ahead and dance and sing wherever you are if you are feeling good. People who don't think it is adorable are just dealing with their own shit.

K - Kids should never ever have to go through this. Kittens shouldn't either.

L - Losing everything you own to mold the first time feels about as liberating as being chased by a pack of rabid hyenas feels like a refreshing bit of exercise.

M - Music heals.

N - Never own more than you need right now.

O - On the second time you lose all your belongings to mold, it does feel a bit more liberating.

P - People with autoimmune disorders tend to be weirdly smart.

Q - Question yourself the hardest on anything you find others are doing that is “just ridiculous.” There really might be something there you need to learn.

R - Really research any medical intervention that isn't free or non-invasive. Everything has drawbacks. Find two reliable sources who disagree.

S - Safe is the only true requirement for a place to be home.

T - There is a respect for the awesome power of nature that we "canaries" are learning, that just might be the way to heal the planet.

U - Understand that you may never fully understand, and that is just fine.

V - Very rarely does Western medicine concern itself with the root cause. Equally as rarely does holistic medicine offer a way to cure the root cause that doesn't require a mountain of work. Nobody goes straight for the mountain of work...popping pills and surgery would have been fine by me. They were just epic fails.

W - We all deserve to feel well. Anyone who says otherwise is just dealing with their own shit.

X - "X out" of any attachment you have to your illness being your identity.

Y - You need love more than anything else when you are sick. Even when you are exhausted and cranky. Especially when you are exhausting and ungrateful. It is an unfair reality of life that when someone's life is falling apart, our culture demands they be their most enlightened. Everybody goes through hard times. Some people's hard times last a really long time. It wears everybody down, and love is what keeps you going.

Z - Zero people know what the day will bring. It can be kind of freeing if you let it. Just don't forget your EpiPen.

Sara Riley Mattson is the author of Maybe I'm From Another Planet, Camp Like a Girl, and Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out.

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