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Finding Strength Within

By Liv Metsa, CCPRD Project Associate

Photo of Liv's resilience after her first flare-up with Behcet's Disease at 15 years old in which she was hospitalized, catheterized, and narcotized for a week.

Your deepest weakness is your highest strength!

As the world shifts to life during a global pandemic, we may not know much about COVID-19 but we do know this: sacrifices must be made. Families postpone significant life events, students and workers adjust to virtual offices, and individuals cope with uncertainty without the close comfort from loved ones. Every single one of us has experienced loss to some degree throughout this historical event, ironically connecting us deeper than we’ve ever understood one another… even through social distancing! Through such unity, those deemed at-risk to complications from the virus request more than just protection but support, respect, and empathy while we surrender to lockdown. When the body already attacks itself, the last thing one needs is not just a lethal, novel epidemic but also a society that leaves them behind.

As an international, interconnected society, we have a responsibility to tend to the wounds of fellow humans, especially if we are not personally afflicted.

An autoimmune disease is a multisystemic disorder in which the body’s defense system mistakenly attacks one’s own healthy cells, manifesting through extreme inflammation with subsequent pain and fatigue. Even though there are over 80 classified autoimmune diseases, most of them are still misunderstood and all of which are currently incurable. Similar to COVID-19, doctors understand little about how to treat autoimmune diseases, more often than not retreating to side-effect heavy immunosuppressive practices. As the immune system is directly involved in the body’s response to COVID-19, those living with autoimmune diseases prove to be at direct risk of acquiring further complications in contracting this novel coronavirus. Grappling with an invisible illness is alienating enough under normal circumstances. However, now patients must also endure the biggest pain beyond any physical ailment: that we are forgotten by our own generation.

Substance use, domestic violence, and deaths by suicide do not disappear during a global emergency but, rather, increase dramatically. As an international, interconnected society, we have a responsibility to tend to the wounds of fellow humans, especially if we are not personally afflicted. Although these concerns seem specific to those involved, we must remember that our well-being is not separate from another’s. Systems at large begin with the individual. When forests burn to ashes, their trees rise again even higher through interconnected root systems, absorbing only the nutrients from embers. Each tree lifts the other as it would not be a forest without them all. Similarly, as our reality crumbles before our eyes, we rebuild ourselves with only the most substantial of rubble, developing an invincible kingdom; yet there would be no kingdom without all of the communities that fill it!

Throughout this pandemic, we each face our deepest fears in absence of our highest desires… and most of us face them alone. With jobs, homes, and even lives at risk, we have tiptoed through these days with immense caution… and rightfully so! Please continue to wear your mask, social distance, and follow scientists’ instructions accordingly. However, we invite you to reframe such cautiousness into consciousness, to replace tentative tiptoeing with a strong stride. Instead of braving each day through pure reaction, let us rather set intentions that define our experience under these circumstances; let us act rather than react! In challenging ourselves to take back control within the uncontrollable, we find that we need every one of us to achieve such stability again, deriving strength from even those most vulnerable. Only together can we truly rise… lift yourself by lifting others!

You are not weak; you just don’t know how strong you can be!

For more information on invisible illnesses, specifically autoimmune diseases, please visit the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association at!

One way to lend support to those at-risk is by volunteering for the Kenneth Young Center delivering meals to those in preventative isolation. Learn more about how to get involved here.

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