Discouragement is difficult and very real. It is often the elephant in the room, standing alone and unmentioned for fear that acknowledging its existence might make it rage. While looking away from it might help us feel safe, the fact is that we benefit more by facing it head-on and forcing it out of our space.
This week was painfully discouraging for me. Even while celebrating my son’s 4th birthday and seeing him well over with joy, my heart was suffering from multiple conversations that had shaken my confidence, courage and optimism. My work to grow the Me.Now. Movement was at the core of my discouragement after feeling the movement come under criticism, doubt, and even perceived attack from outside. In addition to my own setbacks, I saw some of my closest friends and peers experience hurdles of their own professionally, personally and with loved ones. From within my turmoil I felt compelled to confront my discouragement openly in this post, in the hopes that others might find comfort in knowing how I deal with discouragement.
In January of 2011, less than six weeks after moving to Thailand with my wife, I contracted Dengue Fever from an infected mosquito. Known as ‘Bone Break Fever’, Dengue Fever infects up to 100 Million people each year and has no known cure. Symptoms vary slightly but share one common factor – extreme pain. Headaches, joint pain and muscle pain are at the core of dengue symptoms along with uncontrollable fevers, rashes and bouts of fatigue. A healthy 30yr old American male, the disease wrecked me physically. I spent 7 consecutive days sleeping in fits, fighting off a 104 degree fever, and rejecting all food. All my wife could do for me was mix water and Gatorade together to keep me from dehydrating while the fever ran its course. My weight dropped rapidly and my confidence went with it. When I finally pulled myself out of bed on day 8, the mirror looked back with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes.
My fear that first day out of bed was that I would never get back to the level of health I had before dengue. Also on my mind was the fact that should I contract Dengue Fever a second time, my chances for survival would drop by about 5% and leave me vulnerable to a hemorrhagic fever – one where the autoimmune system cannot fight off the disease. I was overwhelmed with discouragement. Unlike the United States, Southeast Asia never implemented mosquito control measures to fight off or eliminate the disease. Living and traveling in Thailand would pose a constant threat of repeat infection.
I had two options at this point: give in to the discouragement and live in fear of another infection, or face my discouragement head-on to live the life I wanted. When facing debilitating fear, there can only be one answer – fight. Only fighting gives you the hope of winning. Giving up is a guaranteed loss. So I fought.
My body recovered fairly quickly in terms of energy levels and flexibility. While it took me 2 years to gain back the weight that I had lost, I was able to start running again within just a few months. When I look back at photos before and after my stint with dengue, I see the impact from that one little bite. But when I look back on the story of my life, I am so glad that I did not let discouragement change my course.