September 28 – October 4th was Invisible Illness Awareness Week and I loved reading all of the “30 Things” that people filled out. (Check out mine here)
It got me thinking about invisible illnesses and all the thousands and thousands of people who live with them. Just last week Selena Gomez finally stepped out and talked about her battle with Lupus and how she had to take a break to get it under control. There are so many of us out there and many of us refuse to let a diagnose us hold us back.
So, my invisible illness warriors, I believe a really great follow-up question to all of the “30 Things” meme is “Will I continue to react to circumstances or will I choose to create the life I want to live?”
I say this because, so often I see chronically fabulous patients start to dwell on the negative aspects of illness. I know that the meme was meant to shed light onto invisible illness, but I also started to see some who harped on the negative aspects of the illness the most.
I’ve even been asked NUMEROUS times why and how I could even think to look at my invisible illness as a blessing.
It’s freaking HARD. It’s hard work to have to battle your body everyday and still show up to live your life.
It’s freaking hard to have to take chemo on a regular basis to try to keep your immune system in check.
It’s freaking hard to have people in your life that don’t understand what you’re going through.
IT’S FREAKING HARD. PERIOD.
I definitely went through a period of loathing life and not understanding why all this was happening to me. I cried. Everyday. In private because I didn’t want to burden my family more.
I wished and prayed and dreamed for my life back. I don’t think I ever prayed so hard in my life.
I would get frustrated as all hell when I would look on social media and see all my friends out having an awesome time while I was in bed, in pain, nauseous and hating life.
It’s hard to look at a diagnosis as a positive thing, but the funny thing about it is, it really can add so many amazing things to your life. For me, if took awhile to come around to realizing I still was in control of creating the life I wanted to live. And that journey is different for everyone.
There are the 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous and there are the 5 stages of grief and loss . . . and they really truly can play a role in chronic illness as well.
Let’s look at the 5 stages of grief and loss.
4. Sadness & Depression
I truly believe that when we receive a diagnosis, or our life changes because of health problems (and we’re searching for a diagnosis), we all go through these stages.
At first we’re in denial. We block out the facts that we receive from our doctors or our loved ones. There’s no way it could be happening to us, therefore we act like it isn’t. Often times we retreat into isolation as well. Once we start realizing how ‘real’ this truly is, we often want to be alone.
Then comes anger. How could this happen to me? WHY ME?! We’re not even close to accepting this fate, therefore our emotions are usually translated into anger. Maybe we take it out on our friends and family. Maybe we keep it bottled up inside. We may start resenting those who are living “normal” lives and going about their days without having to deal with health issues.
We’re human, therefore we want to be in control. Next comes the guilt. To try to regain some control of an out of control situation, we start to think through things to see what we could have changed. Maybe if we would have taken better care of ourselves. Or perhaps if we would have gone to the doctors sooner or listened to the warning signs our body was giving us 10 years prior. What if, what if, what if . . .
And soon enough we reach depression. We feel hopeless. Like our life is over. That nothing we can do, or anything anyone can do, will change it. There are many different forms of depression that a chronically fabulous patient could have. And, because most of our conditions are rooted in inflammation, that doesn’t help make the situation any better. Inflammation can actually cause depression. (check out that great article)
Acceptance. It can seem like the pot of gold at the end of a non-existent rainbow, but you can get there. To get to acceptance people can take a variety of paths. Maybe you had to hit rock bottom to really decide you needed to change. Or maybe you were able to channel your emotions and let it fuel your passion to live. Whatever gets you to acceptance, it’s solely up to you. No one can make you accept your condition. No one can make you choose to want to act and live your life to the fullest. It’s something that you have to come to on your own.
But, the fact of the matter is, when you accept what’s going on it your life, when you stop reacting to everything that’s being thrown your way, you can move past it and LIVE. Life is about living and when you’re stuck in a pattern of reacting to your life circumstances, you’re not living your fullest potential.
Personally, I found my bridge from depression to acceptance in a book. It was Dr. Lissa Rankin’s Mind Over Medicine book and it truly helped me realize that I still wanted to live a great life. If you’ve never read this book I highly suggest you get it. Or, at the very least, go to her website and download her free healing kit. Her diagnosis journal questions helped me sort through emotions and issues I was dealing with while trying to come to acceptance with my condition.
This is by no means everyone’s journey. Everyone has a completely different path that they take. And that’s ok! But, to realize that many of us hit on the same points throughout our journey is important.
My hope is that everyone who participated in Invisible Illness Awareness week, and even those who didn’t participate but still live with a condition, realizes this. There are ups and downs in EVERYONE’S lives. Poor, rich, sick, healthy, black, white, Chinese, Australian. E V E R Y O N E has ups and downs. And it truly is up to us how we decide to react to those ups and downs. It may take us time to be able to accept our ups and down, but if we believe in ourselves and look on the positive side of things, we can get there.
So today, I’m asking you will you continue to react to circumstances or will you choose to create the life you want to live?
Be kind to yourself. Love yourself to the fullest. And have faith that life is working out just as it should.
Wishing You A Pain Free Day!