Can I get a witness?
(Can I get a witness?)
Can I get a witness?
(Can I get a witness?)
Somebody, somebody
(Can I get a witness?)

~ ‘Can I Get a Witness’ composed by Brian HollandLamont Dozier and Eddie Holland

 

witnessIt has taken me a long, long time of coexisting with rheumatoid arthritis to distinguish one of my most fundamental needs surrounding this chronic illness: I need a witness. Glaringly obvious, this has been staring me in the face for 17 years, from my first undiagnosed stumblings in the world of pain all the way through the last two years of blogging on the CreakyJoints website, but I was completely oblivious until a staggering flash of insight last week.

 

For so long with this disease I have craved to be witnessed in my journey. As much as I needed my doctor to believe me about my pain even when blood tests came back negative, and as much as I needed my friends to cut me some slack around my sudden erratic nature, I simply needed someone. . . something . . to see what I was having to endure while the world whirled by unphased by me slamming into a metaphorical brick wall at full speed.

 

Why did I need someone to see? I’m still not sure. Perhaps to escape the feeling of drowning unnoticed that seemed to be characteristic of being sick in a world where being healthy is the norm. Perhaps so that my suffering being seen might prompt some Deus Ex Machina to swoop down onto my stage and pluck me out of my drama, only to enter Act Three whole and bearing a moral of redemption.  Mostly, I think, so that it might not all be for nothing. I lived in hope that the mere act of being witnessed might give a sliver of meaning to the tragedy that started eating my life one unsuspecting day.

 

In my meanderings of forums and chatrooms I notice that people often post their story of disease apropos nothing in particular, ending with some variant of: “It is hell. I cannot stand it.” I hear a plea to the vast anonymous internet to be noticed and seen and not sink unchronicled into history.

 

My brief history of writing about my perspective on ‘being diseased’ has yielded great fulfillment, not just from the connections made and great feedback received, but from the quiet feeling of being seen. It is a feeling that echoes through me as if my tribe, although already small silhouettes receding on the horizon, knows where I am and will not leave me behind.

 

This realization has led me to think about my relationship with my own inner Witness; the part of my being that observes all without judgement or emotion; the part of me that simply chronicles my experience to encode into my DNA to pass on to children, and the part of my consciousness that is the Universe simply experiencing itself.

 

Now that I am aware of it, I see my Witness clearly, a silent, shadowy member of the committee that chatters on in my head with every waking moment. He sees. He sees it all. He is the one that mediates my life back to the pool of consciousness, my tiny ripple in a sloshing trough.

 

And now that I can see my own Witness, I am much reassured.