Sometimes when we go through a challenge or struggle in our lives, we don’t realize the immensity of our actions when we look at it from our own perspective, within it all. But there are times we are able to watch ourselves from the outside in, without all the fear, doubt and self-criticism blinding us to who we truly are and what we are truly achieving. Observing ourselves and our lives like we are watching the protagonist in our favourite book or movie, and wondering in awe how we are managing to overcome all that is in our path in such a remarkable way. All the kindness and compassion we feel towards ourselves, when we see the truth of it all, the lenses colouring our vision of all we are not, stripped away by the truth.
I experienced this in a very profound way when looking through pictures taken from my phone that were hidden away on my old computer. I saw every moment from the beginning of my illness in April 2014 until that moment, in October 2015 and was almost brought to tears, but not out of sadness. Out of the pure immensity of emotion that came with wondering – who is this girl I am watching? Who is she, and how does she do it? How does she refuse to give up, no matter what hits her down? No matter what obstacles rise in her path? How can she keep getting up over, and over again, every time she falls? Who is she really?
I saw the story of a girl who never gives up. I saw the months that turned into years of her making the most of every ounce of energy she was blessed with. Of trying again, always in a new way, despite all the failures and difficulties she was presented with. I followed her path through this mystery illness and symptoms that no one could fix or understand, and watched as she fought.
The day after severe nightmares and panic following the week she lost her insurance income, her apartment and her car – pictures of Disney VCRs all out so she could give herself love, happiness and peace, despite all the chaos.
Pictures of her walks around her home, however short or long, persisting through the seasons of summer, autumn, winter, spring and then summer again. Whether it was building from 5 minutes, to 10 to 20 or declining to 5 and then 0 and then maybe 3 minutes max for a while, and back up again. I saw all of this, regardless of the invisible teeter-totter she so precariously rode because of an illness the doctors couldn’t understand. She navigated it with courage every single day, whether it was up or down, always trying - never giving up.
I saw her smile as she sat in the rollator-make-shift wheel-chair that was her only way to leave the home at the time, as her Mom and Dad strolled her around the park or at the beach on her good days, so she could be outside. I saw the gratitude and pure joy in her face, despite her being unable to walk, and no one being able to predict if she would ever be able to again.
I saw this girl create miracles.
Her courage in starting and maintaining a relationship. Her hopes, her dreams expressed throughout her journey in these photos that captured it all.
All the places she searched for answers – Naturopaths, Infectious Disease Specialists, GI Specialists, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, CFS clinics, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, multiple counsellors, Endocrinologists, Rheumatologists, all the major hospitals in Toronto and their respective emergency and Internal Medicine Specialist divisions, Neurologists, Massage Therapists, Gynecologists, Hematologists, Homeopaths, Astrologists, Physiatrists, Dermatologists, Energy Healers, Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Meditation centres, yoga studios and everything in between. None of which could give her an answer to help her health or treatment or even an explanation for what was causing it, when it would get better or how to get there.
This is what she faced at 22 years of age on wards, losing everything from her ability to work, to her income, to her car, to her apartment, to the loss of close relationships, to her physical strength and vitality, to her mental clarity and even to her ability to function in life while she lay bedridden and unable to stay awake.
And yet there she was, in those photographs, sitting up on her day-bed couch, around her family on her birthday, smiling as she cut the cake. Taking pictures of the blue sky and the fresh green leaves. Going to meditation studios and meeting new people, while learning about new things she hadn’t yet explored. Her listening to her healing music tracks on YouTube when she couldn’t do anything else, lighting candles for inner peace, capturing inspiring quotes in her notebook. The first time she got in a car and drove after a year of being unable to do so, and going straight to Chapters where she stood in pure gratitude amongst her precious books. When she couldn’t walk more than 1 minute, yet still attended her friends’ Engagement Party as a bridesmaid.
There are so many instances reflected in the photographs I saw, all the more impactful because I knew what was happening in the moments in between, the moments not caught on camera. The moments she fought even harder. I saw the challenges and obstacles and uncertainty she dealt with every single day, that hid beneath that smile, that laugh and those clear, determined eyes - for 1.5 years at that point, and now more than double that time until this day.
She is my hero.
Because she taught me the truth of who I am. The truth that I am not my circumstances, my illness, or the obstacles and what seem like failures to those on the outside. That I am not the judgement, doubt or labels of others. That I am not my experiences, my ability to work or not work, my job title, my material wealth and possessions, my relationships and social life, my activities, my physical abilities, my mental acuity or intelligence. I am me. Underneath all those layers of identity that were stripped away from me, I saw the truth of who I am.
No matter how hard things got, no matter what happened or how uncertain it was, no matter how much fear was in my path – I rose. Again, and again, I rose. Because I realized one thing – underneath it all, nothing can break me. Nothing can touch me, because I am the Fire. I am the way I respond to all I am experiencing, from the place of power within me, that is greater than any obstacle I face.
And no one can ever take that away from me.
I lost everything I had - and yet I am still standing,
Because when everything was taken away, I found the only thing I needed – Me.
I call her Shakti, the Truth of who I am, that fire within that is untouchable.
I learned – I am Shakti.
And I am capable of miracles.
And in that knowingness of truth of who I am – I am fearless. And I know there is nothing that can ever stand in my way, no lesson that will be more than I can take, no obstacle I can not overcome because I am me, I am Shakti.
Till this day, the knowledge of this truth and embracing it every day is how I battle on, each and every single day, as I heal myself from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I have faith this experience is only teaching me all I need to learn so I can fulfill my purpose in this world when I move forward from it one day. And I will overcome it, and all that stands in my way, to achieve my personal liberation and freedom so I can live my heart’s truest desires and fulfill what I came here on Earth to do.
I was born into the world as Shalini Devi Singh, a name I know I chose before I was born, to the parents I had already decided to come to. Because Singh means Lion, and it is that Lion I realize I am at the core and truth of my being, that Shakti. That courage, that truth, that fearlessness. That Lion, that brave heart - those roaring flames.
And one day when I overcome this battle and have moved past this great lesson that is CFS – on that day, you will hear my roar. Wherever you are in the universe, know that you will hear it, and you will know that I have done it. That I finally succeeded in realizing all that I am and am ready to move forward and bring all I have learned and all I have to offer into this world.
Listen for my roar, and you will know, the truth of who I am is unleashed in all my being, with Love, and only Love guiding my way.
Because I am a Warrior of the Heart, and that is how I will win this battle I face – by looking within, where all the true answers lie.
Know that you’ll hear me, wherever you are…listen for my roar and know in the moment you hear it, I am Victorious.