Do you remember that scene in “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone” when Hermione says Petrificus Totalus and Neville’s body becomes stiff and rigid just before he falls to the ground? Being diagnosed with a disease can feel like this. Like a curse has been cast upon you and paralysed you. Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) especially so, given its hallmark symptoms of pain and stiffness.
Of course, muggles (those without AS, or other chronic conditions) may see your distress, but have no clue or awareness of the force that has just acted upon you. They will see you dazed, petrified, stupefied even, and say things like ‘snap out of it’, ‘it’ll be okay’, ‘it can’t be that bad’. You know they mean well but their words aren’t as powerful as the doctor with the test results who said to you ‘you have ankylosing spondylitis’.
Before you become truly petrified and hit the floor so to speak, you may feel a spurt of relief at finally knowing. Possibly the warmth of renewed hope in receiving effective treatment or a cure. Glee and joy will wash over you in mere moments, the blink of an eye and may fade away just as quickly. But then in an instant your body and mind realises that this diagnosis is not the flu or a cold. It is in this millisecond that the curse grabs you and you truly can feel paralysed. ‘Why me?’ and ‘How come? or how long…?’; become pressing questions that snake up your spine and wrap around your mind leaving you feeling helpless, hurting and wondering.
At some point, you will hear that echoing inner voice that says: ‘GET UP! Like Neville you may lay still for a moment, absorb everything and then you’ll remember that Neville confronted Hermione, Harry and Ron so that Gryffindor wouldn’t lose points. This took courage, guts, true inner strength. You have those qualities and more.
You need more than words. I know (because I did), after all you have a disease and a sesquipedalian named one at that. What good are words against such a foe. In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, words were everything; at least according to Dumbledore. “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
Words coupled with belief is the beginning of your journey back to wellness [no matter the disease]. You must watch very closely your words and guard even more closely your thoughts. Defeat begins first in the mind. Enchant yourself against defeat, doubt and discouragement with a mantra. A powerful phrase that calls forth all your inner wisdom, past triumphs and present potential; a spell or charm if you will that reminds you of your greatness.
Mine is, “a thousand suns at the base of my spine, how divine is this moment”. This mantra reminds me that I have the potential of the sun, not one but a thousand within me. At the base of my spine, where ankylosing spondylitis hurts the most. I repeat it daily, hourly and sometimes moment after moment. Through tears, through clenched teeth or a grimacing face, I say it and feel the truth of it travel from the base of my spine, into my legs and arms, around my ribcage and through my heart until it takes over my body and mind.
Words are powerful. Speak them clearly and sincerely. You can and you will triumph.
Dev is an American yogi, healthy living enthusiast, zen follower and yoga instructor. His hope is to inspire others to improve their quality of life through proactive steps rather than submitting to AS. Check out his Instagram @yogiposture