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Souvenirs and Symbols

Souvenirs and Symbols

As a whole, I believe it is safe to say that as humans, we love our “stuff.” Our closets, cupboards, and garages tend to be teeming with everything from outgrown clothes to old sports gear. Why do we feel the need to hang on to so many things? In my experience, we like things because they often hold our memories. Good or bad, we associate many things in our lives with emotions, memories, and symbolism.

The whole idea of different colored support ribbons is based on this notion – using objects to represent our support of a cause that we are emotional about. Much like “spoons” have come to represent what it is like to live with an invisible illness, we find comfort and strength through the symbols that represent strong emotions.

Sometimes symbols of strength don’t come in the traditional packaging of ribbons and spoons

I recently had the opportunity to take a much-needed girls trip to the beach with some of my “mom friends.” As much as I could use a bit of R&R, I was hesitant. This would be my first real trip without family since my diagnosis. To be honest, I struggled a great deal with some very real fears.

What if I couldn’t keep up? What if I spent the entire trip miserable and stuck in bed? Would I just end up wasting my money? Would I ruin the trip for everyone else? These thoughts plagued me. Doubts, concerns, and fears made me hesitant to commit but I finally agreed.

Worrying and preparing

I researched travel trips for those in chronic pain. I scheduled infusion appointments for the most likely chance of having a string of “good days.” I pretty much did everything in my power to assure myself that the trip would be a success, packed my bags, and away we went.

Despite all my fears, worries, and doubts, I had the time of my life! I pushed myself. But more than that, I was smart. For once, I chose to use the strength that I had wisely. I listened to my body and rested when I needed to rest. And I never felt like I was missing out on anything. It was like all the stars were perfectly aligned. My friends were all supportive, understanding, and empathetic to my needs, even when I was moving slowly. For that, I know I am truly blessed.

What does all this have to do with symbols of chronic illness?

Well, I turned 40 (yeah, I know I’m a woman revealing my age – gasp!) As a group of moms (all of us with very professional jobs),  we decided that it would be fun to get our noses pierced. We rationalized that it wasn’t “permanent,” if we didn’t like it or changed our minds later, it wouldn’t be a big deal to simply take it out.

So there I found myself, in the chair, waiting for a lady to push a giant pole through my nose. Clearly, I’m crazy ran through my mind on an endless loop. In the end, the whole thing took just a few minutes and I was finished. As I gazed at my reflection in the mirror, I began to feel a sense of pride. I’d done it. Not the whole nose piercing thing, rather I’d been able to connect with the person I used to be. I had fun and now I have a beautiful symbol of this achievement. I have not only a souvenir from a great trip, I have a symbol to remind me that I am more than my PsA. I’m a strong and courageous person, doing my best to live my life to the fullest.

Symbols of strength may not always come as we expect them to be. They might not always be as “traditional” as ribbons as spoons. But the important thing to remember is to look for these in your life. Hold on to the souvenirs and symbols of strength that matter the most to you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.