Choose to find value in your struggle and never surrender to your illness.
A week after my youngest son was born, I awoke to all-over body pain and the inability to walk or use my hands. That was nearly seven years ago and I have learned a lot about being sick, especially as I face daily challenges both physical and emotional.
Here are 7 lessons I have learned in 7 years of being sick.
1. This is your life — you don’t get to give up
This is my life and I will make best of what I have been given. On good days, I can manage my morning routine with little trouble, including taking medication, stretching and getting to work on time. Other days, I want to give up and let my illnesses walk all over me, but an inner voice whispers, “Don’t you dare.” I try not to respond with “It’s not getting better,” or “I just want to give up.”
Giving up is easy, and finding a reason to keep going is difficult. Find those reasons why you need to keep going.
2. Grieve your old life and learn
I have endured many moments of grief in all these years of being sick. I have been angry and I have been sad. I have grieved in healthy ways and not so healthy ways. I also know there is no right way to grieve and no timetable. But I see my episodes of grief as lessons in managing my illnesses rather than allowing illness to manage me.
Grief is a normal and natural response to unexpected changes in one’s health. But it creates a struggle of trying to be hopeful when so much has been taken. Help yourself by acknowledging your loss, opening up to people you trust, adjusting your lifestyle and making smart health decisions. And if you cannot manage your grief alone, seek professional help.
3. Relationships might end but that’s okay
Some of my friends didn’t stick around. Not all my family understands. And my marriage ended. But before I got sick, I loved sharing parts my life with others. I enjoyed having visitors and I was always available to help. But being sick — that is not the life I want to share. This makes it hard to maintain relationships with healthy people. But I am grateful for the people who stuck around even when I wasn’t at my best. And those people are the ones worth your time.
These days, I am busy trying to create a positive and stress-free life for my kids and myself. I don’t have time or energy to care what people think. This is MY life and I am sick and it’s up to me to decide who is in my life and who isn’t.
4. You are going to get depressed but it gets better
Even people in the best health get depressed. These feelings can be pretty intense when we are feeling frustrated about health challenges. The feelings will come and go and are nothing to be ashamed of. However, if you have sleep problems, racing thoughts, ongoing sadness, anxiety, a loss of appetite, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, constant feelings of guilt and worthlessness, or thoughts of suicide or death, seek help and don’t go at it alone.
Depression isn’t personal and it gets better. I have sought help for my depression and I am stronger for that. In the end, all I wanted to be was the best version of me and I finally feel better equipped to manage the challenges that illness brings.
5. Trust yourself — you are the expert
When you are sick, it is easy to want to give someone else power. But you will always be the one who wakes up sick, so trust your own judgment. Only you know what you are capable of and what makes your life easier.
I listen to my body and when others aren’t listening to my concerns, I make them listen. I am the expert on my particular experience with the disease. Not my doctor. Not my well-meaning friends or family. Not even my mother. And definitely not a blogger who claims she is an expert on my disease.
6. Embrace the Internet — just not the dire statistics
I am grateful to live in an age where we are not isolated and can connect with others who are similarly sick. Through my blog, Facebook and Alliance Health’s social networks, I have met many amazing people from all over the world. I have found that life’s not as lonely when another person says, “I know exactly how you feel.”
The Internet can also be an educational tool for learning about your illness. Just remember that what you read on the Internet doesn’t necessarily apply to your unique situation and there may be exaggeratory statistics about your disease. If you are going to use the Internet as an educational tool, follow up with your doctor and don’t lose sleep over everything you read.
7. Reinvent your life
Illness can be difficult and even traumatizing but it teaches you strength, resilience, tolerance and creativity. It can also bring about wisdom, growth and acceptance. Use what you learn to your advantage and reinvent your life to one that successfully copes with your health conditions.
I know there are no guarantees in life. I have fallen, failed and gotten discouraged, but I recognize it is better to work hard and overcome adversity then to have never tried at all.
I believe that there are lessons to learn in every circumstance. Whether those situations are fair or not, obstacles present opportunities to evolve and find meaning in even the most difficult situations. Choose to find value in your struggle and never surrender to your illness.
Originally posted on July 15, 2015 at Arthritis Connect at http://www.arthritisconnect.com/arthritis-articles/627-7-lessons-in-7-years-of-being-sick#uH46de3vqPfh4VDb.99