You’re just making your way through this merry life when all of the sudden you are hit with some weird chronic illness that maybe you’ve never even heard of. In a matter of hours, days, and weeks your entire world is flipped upside down. You went from a daily regimen of a few multi-vitamins to having a pill box sorter for the variety of medications you take, half of which you cannot even pronounce. Your once completely active lifestyle has become sedentary as you learn to deal with new pain, fatigue, and feeling unwell. Chronic illness can take many forms. A few examples are Multiple Sclerosis, Transverse Myelitis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, NMO, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Diabetes. This just barely scratches the surface.
It hits you like a Mack truck, “WTF just happened?” “How am I supposed to live like this.” “When is it going to get better?” These are all completely natural responses to the very confusing, and often times frightening reality of being pegged with a chronic illness, but perspective is very powerful. You can live with this stupid disease and still lead a fulfilling life. You can become a beacon of hope and inspiration to others. It’s not an easy choice sometimes but it is a choice that only you can make. What will this “new you” look like? Will you be swallowed up with despair or will you rise up and show your chronic illness who’s boss.
How do you go about this? Well, I’m no expert, but here are a few tips I’ve found to help me along the way…
- Having a chronic illness is a bit like having a new baby without any of the joy that comes from a new baby. It may wake you up at night, prevents you from getting housework done, and exhausts you. Nap when you can. The dishes can wait. Re-prioritize. You have to put you first. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself.
- Do not feel guilt or shame for not living the life you used to. Maybe you went to CrossFit every day, prepared meals a week in advance, were in the PTA at your kids school. It’s OK that you may not be up to or able to do those things. Learn to love new things. Maybe a yoga class might be easier than CrossFit. Cook just one meal at a time and if you can’t, keep take-out on speed dial. You can still be involved with your kids’ school! Ask your kids’ teacher if she has any work she can send home with your son or daughter for you to do, like cutting out pictures for an upcoming project, or sorting papers.
- Don’t keep your feelings tucked in. Talk about it, blog about it, journal about it…whatever!! Just find a way that you can safely vent, in whatever form you chose to do so
- It’s OK to mourn the loss of the you before your diagnosis. There are times you will heavily grieve over the life you had and that’s Ok. Just don’t lose yourself in it. If you find yourself in mourning, set a time limit. “I will allow myself to grieve for 20 minutes and then it’s time to stop.” This allows you to acknowledge your feelings but not get lost in them. Go ahead and have a big, ugly cry about it! Then it’s time to come back to reality and remember that you are still ALIVE!!!
- YOU are a worthy person. You are worthy of stability, love, and relationship. As impossible as things seem right now, you’ve made it this far. That makes you a total badass and remember that. YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS!!!! Piece by piece, and day by day, your world will start to take shape again. Hold tightly to hope.