In my senior year of high school, I went to the exercise section of Dick’s Sporting Goods and searched for boxing gloves. I had decided on a whim that I wanted to learn how to box. At the time, I was mostly weight lifting, and the majority of my cardio was playing sports with my friends almost daily. It seemed that boxing would fit well into my workout regimen and help to build my cardiovascular strength. It also would work perfectly as a metaphor.
When I was in high school, I was a sad, angry kid. I was pissed off that I had cystic fibrosis (CF). It felt like both a physical and a character defect. Mostly, I didn’t like how it was out of my control.
Once I had the boxing gloves, I’d go to the punching bag at the gym and I’d get lost in the rhythm. Aside from basketball and reading, it was the first thing I’d found that I loved so dearly that everything else in my life just fell away. It was then that I learned what it meant to use my internal struggles as motivation.
Once I reached college, I began struggling with chronic depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety can’t be fixed by simply changing perspective, and they have a powerful way of reducing motivation. Beating them can require medication, some kind of behavioral therapy, and ultimately, time. But — and I say this out of compassion — there is an element of personal responsibility in curing ourselves of any ailment.
With CF, we must be sure we understand our treatments and we must do them. We can’t control whether we have CF or not, but we can make the most of a bad situation and commodify our CF: We can write about it (yours truly), we can speak about harmful healthcare legislation, or we can use it as a chip on our shoulders.
Before I began writing about CF, I used it as a chip on my shoulder. It was the Enemy, the Relentless Opponent in the Other Corner. Boxing provided me with a metaphor: If I want to beat CF, I have to literally fight it. If I spend time in the gym hitting the bag, running sprints, and lifting weights and eat healthily, I’ll be better equipped to fight CF. The worst part of CF as an enemy, however, is that it never gives up. It’s always working to be better, too.
I stopped using CF as a metaphor a few years ago. I was worried it was a battle I could never win, and that viewing CF as an opponent I could beat would only be a source of perpetual disappointment.
Recently, I’ve changed my view on that. As much as we wish the opposite were true, we only have limited control over our circumstances. Any sort of tragic circumstances can befall us in the future. Obsessing over the limitless possibilities — for CF, it could be antibiotic resistance, culturing a nasty bug, getting the flu, or some new organ damage — won’t change the likelihood that those circumstances will come about. Finding a source of motivation deep within ourselves may provide a semblance of control over them, however.
CF may be an enemy that works day in and day out to defeat me, but I work day in and day out, too. I spend my time writing, advocating, learning about CF, and going to the gym. I’m motivated to fight off the damaging effects of CF for the longest time possible. For the first time in years, I feel like I have better control over my life.
Follow along with my other writings on my humbly named site, www.trelarosa.com.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.