By Rivka Yeker.
It is a recurring thought of mine that life’s entire purpose is to teach us lessons. We fall, we pick ourselves up, we learn how to catch our falls — all in order to find the ground within ourselves. This never-ending process of growth and introspection is the only way we stay stitched together, regardless of what seeps out. We are our own band-aid. Whatever is inside us is what heals us.
When we lose that grounding, we flail. We find ourselves gasping for breath while we can’t seem to find the ocean floor. Every heartache, every dose of bad news, every failure becomes the winning punch that sends us flying. We stay alive yet are consumed by misery, by distrust, by resentment.
Last year, I spent the entire summer trying to unlearn bodily perceptions of normalcy. I taught myself to believe that notions of “good” and “bad” were merely filler words without any inherent meaning, that there was no right way to live in a body, and that we were all seeking solace for the ways our bodies reject us.
Since I was 12 years old, I’ve lived with chronic headaches that turned into chronic migraines, and the only treatment I received was over-the-counter painkillers and the advice to exercise and drink a lot of water. I finally went to a neurologist when I was 19, who prescribed me stronger medication that was essentially just a much more potent version of Excedrin.
On top of the chronic migraines, I was diagnosed with chronic Candidiasis after struggling to understand the root of my fatigue, increased depression, various bodily imbalances, and overall constant brain fog. I’ve always had the headaches, so all of these symptoms felt normal to me, but experiencing them on a level that left me completely out of touch with my own body sent me into a journey of healing and getting better. Except — there was no getting better. There was only acceptance and moving forward.
Now, there is a slight feeling of victory and catharsis when I look back and remember how that summer sucked the life out of me. By the end of the summer, I was thrown in for a loop and had to get a minor (yet unbelievably painful) surgery that was completely unrelated to my chronic conditions. I took those months of recovery from that surgery to accept the uncertainty of life and the beatings we take to survive. Yet, as someone who feels connected to a God and the divinity of timing and human spirituality, I found meaning in what seemed like the end of the world. It felt as though I had no other choice.
My mother has said to me, “When we heal, it is easy to forget what the pain we once felt feels like again.” I think about what it means to forget our pain, how it leaves our bodies in one way and comes back in another. This pain is something we can’t escape no matter the amount of therapy or medication we take on, and no matter what we do, both the physical and mental pain is something we are destined and created to endure. That is why, in my own healing, I have learned that the more I accept the cyclical nature of pain, the more equipped I become in dealing with whatever is thrown my way.
I often have to remind myself that every single person is dealing with something monumental. There is never-ending tragedy — a perpetual streak of heartache and death and failure — yet somehow amidst it all, so many of us find reasons to keep moving. The world at large is traumatized. On top of political greed and systemic oppression, our personal lives face the same cycle of pain that I find myself growing to accept.
This past year, I fell in love for the first time and watched it dissolve into thin air when it was suddenly forced to end. I think about the part in Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts where she and her partner Harry are giggling on their red couch, in a bubble, and how she didn’t want to break that bubble when she had to confront the truth and conflict in their relationship. While my relationship had to end, Maggie and Harry merely left the red couch and grew into a family instead. As much as I tried to stay in that bubble, there is a certain moment where reality strikes us right on the skull and reminds us that things just aren't working out.
The breakup was for the best, and I still have a lot of love in my heart for that person, and we will be in each other’s lives no matter what, but it just really reminds me of the temporality of what I thought could last forever. It’s cliche, I know, but I think we sometimes cope by not letting ourselves put a time stamp on things. If we do, it’s a form of self-sabotage — a nihilistic approach to accepting the end of everything. I guess it depends on what works better for each person, but at the time, it was nice to believe it was never going to be over.
While not quite like the year I battled my newfound diagnoses, as I was still adjusting to what was in store for me, this was the summer that I thought love and my brain were going to kill me. They didn’t, obviously, but I was losing myself to a strange, dark, empty void. I never thought that would happen, never thought I’d fall into that hole so deeply and so quickly. But we recover. That’s what’s so interesting about the human spirit — we have the power to recover, we get back up, we keep moving. Not all of us, but the ones who do are covered in scrapes and bruises, mending broken bones and wrapping bandages, all while refusing to give up on this life.
We are currently in a state of complete vulnerability where we unabashedly share our emotions on the internet, process our feelings through memes, watch the world burn in unison via our computer screens, and accept whatever end is near. We let pain cycle the way it does, run into it without fear, endure life’s brutality and all the glory that comes with it. We heal because we are reminded that the opposite of heartache is love and the opposite of tragedy is peace. We grow because once all of this is understood, there is no way to keep living except freely, without expectations, without time stamps.
We allow ourselves to be consumed by pain the same way we are consumed by euphoria.
We find meaning in all that hurts and all that doesn’t.
We accept all that is and we move forward.
Rivka Yeker is the managing editor and co-founder of Hooligan Magazine, a publication created for the sake of art, authenticity, and ambition. She is currently a student at DePaul University, where she is finishing up her undergrad with a double major in Media & Cinema Studies and Public Relations, and a minor in Creative Writing. She lives in Chicago and works at a bookstore where she hosts monthly open mics and various events centered around the arts. Her latest chapbook, Fleeting With No Good Reason, was released through Ghost City Press, and has had other work published in Vagabond City Lit, Rising Phoenix Press, Sobotka Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, and Crook & Folly. Her work tends to explore the confines of language, the relationship between the body and mind, and how we communicate with one another. She is gender non-conforming and goes by she/they, but finds power in the reclamation of a femininity that never made sense to her. You can follow her on Instagram @rivka.yeker.