Chronic Illness Saved My Life

Comments: 5

I’ve written quite a few songs themed around the struggle between nihilism and hope, and how giving up often seems like the better option. It’s a struggle I know very well.

Very few words have ever cut to my core quite like when my doctor said to me, “You’re gonna need to go on disability.”

When you’re diagnosed with a severe chronic illness, you accept several things. You accept that your lifestyle will need to change. You accept taking medicine for the rest of your life. You accept that you can’t eat certain foods anymore, you can’t do certain things you used to do.

But this was something entirely different.

He said, “Juggling work and school is literally killing you. Your immune system can’t handle all the stress you’re putting on your body, and you NEED to stop.”

At the time, I was working a shitty job at Walmart and trying to put myself through college for a degree I didn’t give a damn about, largely because my parents told me to. And back then, this was absolutely crushing news. The thought that I would have to give up on something I’d put the last couple years of my life into – and something I genuinely thought I wanted at the time – was devastating. Of course, I realize now that this crisis forever altered the path of my life for the better, but that perspective is something I didn’t have at first.

I talked to Chris about it. As I mentioned previously, he was at the time working 60-hour weeks in a factory to take care of his parents and siblings – so I figured if anyone would understand what it’s like to work yourself to death, he would. He did have some thoughts on it, which were, “My parents are on disability – trust me, that won’t help you much. But you also do have to stop pushing yourself so hard, nothing’s worth dying over. Maybe look into self-employment?”

It took a little while to get off the ground, but I started teaching guitar online with a combination of Youtube and Skype. But all the stress had taken a huge toll, and I wasn’t getting any better despite being able to quit my job at Walmart.

So next, I dropped out of college.

Now, I basically never had any reason to leave my house. I worked from home, and that was it for school. Interactions with people who weren’t my guitar students became extremely scarce, and I didn’t realize I was quickly becoming alone with my very dark thoughts. It wasn’t just that this illness had completely thrown off my life plans, it was also a looming threat that could become far worse. For the moment, the worst it could do was cause me agonizing pain. But should I fail to keep it controlled, it would go beyond mere pain and could actually kill me.

In my spare time, I started researching alternative medicine. Reason being, even before I quit my job, I didn’t have anywhere near good enough insurance to afford the medication I needed to keep this life-threatening illness in check. I found a few things that work really well – and in fact I’m still using them today – but the biggest thing that put my illness into remission was throwing myself into making music.

This was around the time Adrienne joined the band, and it led me to realize something that fundamentally changed my entire world view. That is, emotions affect physical reality – and not just in the sense that Epica likes to write about! By curtailing my stress responses, I was able to heal from a physical illness.

More than that, a positive emotional outlook allowed me to outright defy the expectations of an entire medical field that told me I was doomed. It also allowed me to make a living doing what I love – playing and teaching music – despite how horribly bad the odds are of anyone succeeding in that way.

It makes me think that maybe, if you just take what’s inside you – what you’re passionate about – and put it out into the world in some way, success is inevitable as long as you don’t stop trying. Health, career, even family – I certainly consider this band to be more of a family to me than the people I’m related to by blood – no matter what the goal is, it’s attainable with relentless drive in the face of overwhelming odds. That kind of attitude changes the odds, so to hell with nihilism! What has anyone ever accomplished by giving up?

And I don’t believe I’m anything special! I’m sure your goals aren’t exactly the same as mine (or maybe they are?) but the principle is the same. I truly believe ANYONE can succeed – so don’t give up, no matter what. I’m right there fighting with you. You’re not alone, and in fact, we’re all gonna win together. We’ve got this!

To that end, please leave a comment below and let me know if you can relate – it would mean a lot to hear if this story perhaps brought you some encouragement with your own struggles.

5 Comments

  • Hello,
    Today I discovered your YouTube page, your band, your stories. And after I read all your stories/bio,I can say that even though I’m far away, reading all posts seemed to me like … Well hell brake lose, cause I’ve a mix of your life stories in my own life.

    So I understand you very well. I’m 38 years old, I survived 12 years of violence, bullying, I was sexual abused by people from my school when I was young.

    I’ve also 2 chronic diseases that affect a lot my life and affected my past, affect my present and for sure it’ll affect my future. I’ve been Through major depression, suicidal tendencies… lost 3, relationships (betrayed or just ghosted – all 3 totalize 16 years of my life). But here I am Alive.
    I play synths/pipe organ/keyboards since my 5 years old, I had a band, I had a good job,a wife… All gone. I live with my parents, and well that’s how life is. Ii isn’t always bad to stay closed at home sometimes.

    If it weren’t some friends I didn’t had a cellphone to type this message for example. I stopped playing for 4/5 years… I just went down the drain. No money, no resources…gear… Nothing!!! I worked all my life like hell, sometimes 24h straight.

    I recorded some simple music just with a cable through line in on my old pc, few years ago. And on 13th may present year, a friend gave me a studio usb 2/4 192 from presonus. I couldn’t even talk, ’cause even though I want to be on stage again, play live… Inside of my head music is alive in a form of cosmos chaos.

    And ’cause of that “relationship” with astrophysics, classic music, gothic etc, (and though limited on gear or vst’s – I just have my old korg Triton Le) , that is the moistures of textures and sounds that I wanted to recreate through all my knowledge and musical influences. And also let people try to guess insich galaxy my mind is right now.

    Classic music, prog metal, symphonic, gothic, sci-fi etc are my influences.

    And well maybe one day I can put something with quality on net.
    My YouTube channel just has some old samples, played live on stupid programmed drums through the Korg, well but at least they’re copyrighted. Lol

    Be free to stay in touch (all of you) and share ideas.

  • Doug thorpe says:

    You know 1 of my newest friends, who seems pretty honest and loyal and to have my best interest at heart, took me aside about a week ago and said very similar things to me. He hadn’t talked to me for a couple of days, which is odd. He said we needed to talk. He has a similar diagnosis and just got an apartment and got out of a homeless shelter. He said, it had been driving him crazy not talking to me but that by constantly overfocusing on my problems, and afflictions, and hardships I was spreading too much negativity for him and everyone else to handle. That I needed to always keep moving forward, not focusing on the past, and spend my thoughts and time focusing on what I do have and what I want and need and how to get it. But mostly just be thankful and happy for the simple things. At first I was very defensive and offended. But after I got home it just kept sinking in, I have my own home, I’m alive, litteraly 100’s of people know me from the local music scene and know my nickname, I still have my own drum set… Even though my heads are dipped and still from 1995, I have a nice car, and so many more things are still swirling in my head. I am damaged, but stronger in so many ways because of it. I still get down frequently and of course still see and hear things constantly that I’m not sure if they are real or not. Which is distressing and my panic attacks are scary and painful and every time I’m sure I’m gonna die. But….. I gotta start somewhere and I did. I smile alot more already and people are commenting on it. You’re story is telling me how to positively and productivity use my energy’s in a way that will make me happy. I’m sure you know, when I complete a picture or play well during practice on my drums, I’m still trying to at least sit behind them, it’s theraputic and fulfills me even if only for a moment. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, and in a nonaggressivly get me to step outside and see myself a little. You’re good people.

  • Bob White says:

    Your story meant so much to me, as I am about to go on disability for MS. Your courage to press on and to strive through it gives me hope!
    Please keep the great tunes coming, y’all!

    – Bob (in TX)

    • Kevin Goetz says:

      Hey Bob, I’m so happy my story was able to give you hope! There’s definitely good reason to keep fighting through illness – it’s incredible what can happen with the right mindset, in my experience.

  • leo says:

    I resonate with your story- I am a 60yr old cancer survivor who was spurred to deeper focus by my illness. I feel I am making some of the best music of my life these days. I am not doing the symphonic metal thing any more (which I love) so it is always good to hear new voices! Keep up the good work…

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