I’ve concentrated on other parts of my life the past few months, relying on the 80+ other posts that I’ve written to keep communicating my message with my Facebook followers. As those of you who have read my blog know, I’ve handled a number of very serious health issues over the last several years. Among them continuous pain, both nerve pain and connective tissue pain, as well as overwhelming fatigue. Intertwined have been battles with Stage 4 cancer and worsening heart disease.
But despite all that has befallen me, I keep coming back. I keep grabbing back control of my life and living it to the fullest. It might not be the same life that I had 10 years ago, but it’s still MY life and I’m not going to let anything get in the way of my doing what I choose to do. Saying all that doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of myself and try to prevent overdoing things. Self-care is fundamental to staying in as much control over our lives as we can in spite of our illnesses.
To me, always the first hurdle is acceptance. If we can’t accept the situation we are in, get comfortable with it. Decide that we can’t somehow snap our fingers and make everything better, so that we will not wallow in our miseries forever.
Chronic illness can be devastating to your emotional health. No one is prepared to be told that you will live the rest of your life very differently and that you must face your own mortality. It’s no wonder that most of us have to fight our way through bouts of anxiety and depression.
But, there is a truth to life that we have to keep in mind. That is that you deserve to be as happy as possible each and every day you live. Far too many people waste too much time avoiding activities that could bring them joy and losing out on friendships and experiences that would otherwise be fulfilling.
It should be our fundamental right to enjoy every minute of our lives and not let chronic illness take that away. So, how you say?
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. – the Dalai Lama.
I take this advice in a number of different ways. I stay as active and busy as possible. Since I had to retire because of my disabilities, I have taken on different kinds of projects in order to do this. First, I worked on family genealogy. I still work at it part time. Now, I must admit that I was a little “handicapped” in this effort because I had to essentially stay at home and find online sources to help me succeed. To get those last few records, I ended up calling local historical societies and working with volunteers (mostly college students), who would go to the local courthouses, etc. and copy records for me. It worked and I was able to publish a well documented family history that took my surname back at least nine generations. Along the way, it earned me membership in several genealogical societies of which one became my second hobby or passion that has kept me going. I am very active in one organization whereby in small doses outside my house I keep contact with friends other than family members. And, I can support it at home through work on the computer.
Working on the computer also keeps me busy and in contact with others who have some of the same issues I do. I enjoy posting on Facebook, do it just about every day (except those I am too sick) and try to write this blog when I can.
I get up every morning no matter how bad I feel, bathe, get dressed, eat a breakfast and sit down at the computer. If I feel like it, I might venture out of the house on something “optional” but most of the time, going “out” for me is going to the doctor or to the hospital for tests.
Also, you should never shy away from seeking out help. There are trained therapists who are skilled at helping you come to grips with your diagnoses. Support groups (even online) are a great place to find inspirational people that will help you get through the darkest of days. And there are other ways to help keep a positive mindset despite your illnesses.
First and foremost is to set goals. Goals keep you focused. Goals keep you looking at the future rather that dwelling in the past. Physical limitations force us to make realistic goals because if your goals are set too high, they will do more harm than good. Think of something, anything that you wanted to accomplish, break in down into very small steps and start to accomplish it. That’s how I’m living out my life and doing things I enjoy.
I also think that journaling – writing down your thoughts – is a positive experience that can bring us pleasure despite our having to live with chronic disease. I think if you find yourself obsessing over some negative event, begin to write about it, finding something positive in the process. This method can be useful to re-train your brain to think more positively. Start this way – write in your journal about 5 to 10 “great” things (and specific things) that happen to you each and everyday (or most days). Eventually, you will start to look forward to these positive things happening and it will bring even more joy to your life.
A big part of happiness relies on relationships with others. Hopefully, you have a family support system. And you need to have an “outside” social setting where you can interact with others even if it’s only once a month or so. Humans are social creatures and yearn to interact with one another. Church might be a way to do this. A social club is another. But if you find yourself most days home alone, don’t despair. I’ve used my computer to keep those social interactions going on a daily basis. As I mentioned earlier, use an online group to socially interact with each day. Choose a group that shares what you’re going through. And once you choose a group, stick with it. Your bonds will be greater that way. It will better help meet your need to be around others as well as help you overcome some of those negative obsessions.