The Chronic Canyon; Strength Through Illness

So sometimes you don’t realize what you need to hear until you say it to someone else. At least, that’s how it works with me a lot. When I am dealing with other peoples’ problems, I actually do pretty well and can think pretty clearly… but I am completely helpless at solving my own problems. And yes, they can be the same problems.

One of the bloggers I follow had an extremely rough day a little while ago, and it boiled over into last night. It really upset her, and her post was very raw and emotional… and extremely relatable to anyone suffering from puzzling chronic conditions. She ended it with “I used to be stronger than this,” which is something that runs through my brain constantly. However, hearing her say it made me think about it in a different way, and I found myself coming up with the perfect analogy for chronic illness and the strength of the sufferers. (At least, I think it’s pretty perfect.) I kind of wrote it, and then stared at it dumbfounded. Somehow, she had gotten me to write exactly what I needed to know myself…

I’m sharing it here because I think it is important that anyone suffering from confusing, little known, and crippling (emotionally and/or physically) chronic illnesses should think about their strength in this way. We’re all much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. (This post has been cleaned up a bit because the original comment had a lot of typos.)

chronic canyon

(Image from

The Chronic Canyon

You’re strong in the same way the Grand Canyon was/is strong. When the Colorado River first started flowing over it, there were no signs. Then, slowly, the river started to take the surface sediment off; but it was still barely noticeable. Suddenly, and seemingly all at once, the surface was gone, leaving the raw (but tough) under layers exposed. This appeared to be so strong that it wouldn’t go anywhere. But sure enough, the river just kept flowing, and slowly the tough rock started to wear away. Eventually, the water wore its way deeper and deeper into the bedrock, carving out deep grooves. Sometimes, pieces of the rocks and soil would fall away in large chunks. This would happen over and over and over, until the canyon got to its current size. At times, it would seem as if it was just too weak to keep going, that it was just going to give way and crumple into a pile of ugly rocks. But, somehow, it didn’t. And now, the giant scar the river wore into the ground is heralded as a magnificent natural wonder, admired by everyone that sees it.

Chronic illnesses are the rivers, your soul is the ground. You aren’t weak, not at all. You’ve just been worn down by the relentless flow of your illness. But you’ll get to a point where you suddenly realize that you aren’t ugly and broken; you are beautiful and strong. Sure, there will always be weak points that will crumble and crack, but that doesn’t make you a weak person.

I promise that things eventually get better, it’s just hard to see that until you get there.

9 thoughts on “The Chronic Canyon; Strength Through Illness

  1. Pingback: The Chronic Canyon; Strength Through Illness | Knotholes and Textures

  2. Thank you for this analogy. It’s beautiful and inspires all of us with chronic illness to take heart and see how our lives are different, not necessarily worse (even when it’s hard to keep that in perspective sometimes.) I bet the Grand Canyon never looked into a puddle, though, and said to itself, “Boy, I wish I were a little less majestic…” 🙂


  3. Pingback: The Chronic Canyon; Strength Through Illness | Myndrover's Musings

  4. I love this — what a beautiful metaphor. The last “real” vacation I was able to go on was to the Grand Canyon, which will always live in my mind as one of the world’s most magical places.


      • Oh, I hope you’ll be able to go someday! I have ME/CFS and found it relatively easy to enjoy by car. It was almost better to visit with an illness, because having to sit for long stretches really lets you experience the deep quiet and grandeur and the way it looks different every minute as the clouds move overhead.


          • A decent supply of benches, but an even better supply of big, flat, sunny rocks. 🙂 If I were to go again, I’d take a stadium cushion or something. The nice thing is that most of the tourists, and especially the buses, only go to the “big” viewpoints. If you walk even 100 feet along the Rim Trail (generally flat and accessible) from the viewpoints you can have the canyon almost all to yourself. (At least, that was the case in October when I was there.)


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