Why Accepting My Medical Condition Is a Daily Challenge
Almost a year after my lupus diagnosis, I thought I had finally came to accept my life with chronic illness. Lupus is my second diagnosis, with a prior diagnosis of Addison’s disease about six years earlier. Just six months after my lupus diagnoses, I was also diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. I have now lived with illness for the last nine years.
The first year with lupus was a journey in and of itself. I was still really struggling with my health when six months after my initial diagnosis with lupus, my diagnosis with psoriatic arthritis came along. In those following months, I reflected on what it all meant for me. I was only 20 years old and being told for the third time in my short life that I had an illness that had no cure, limited treatments and would affect me everyday for the rest of my life. I had finally gotten answers in the search to solve some of the health problems I had been having, but these answers had no solutions. But in the midst of this, I had to find ways to be positive in what I knew would be a rough road ahead. I had to find acceptance for what I face. I started to find positivity, meaning and inspiration in my life with illness. And I worked really hard to find it. At least, I really thought I had.
For a long time, I felt broken because I had come to terms with my illness and I had worked towards acceptance, yet I found myself at times feeling negative, angry or upset at my situation. I became so down on myself for letting myself get that way when I felt that I always had to find the positivity within it. I was falling a part, angry at myself for feeling what was only natural – frustration in the midst of something so incredibly out of my control. It is a downward spiral when you start the blame yourself. Everything becomes isolating.
I wasn’t wrong about finding acceptance. In ways, I have accepted my diseases. They have become a part of my identity and that has helped me to move forward in my life with them. But I am now learning that acceptance is more than a single moment in my journey with illness.
Acceptance and healing take time, and a life with chronic illness never fully heals. I will never feel better and that is frustrating. It is heartbreaking. And of course, there are its ups and downs, its waves and wanes, the good days and the bad. But when you wake up with a flare, new unexplained symptoms, something off on a blood test, appointments after appointments – the acceptance period begins again. You wake up each morning and you try to find acceptance that day.
There are some days that I don’t find it. On the bad days, where I can’t get up out of bed, or the pain is too much that simply walking feels like I’m running a full marathon, or the fatigue is so much that my brain doesn’t seem to be working, or the doctors don’t know what’s wrong with me either, or when I have to miss out on something I really want to enjoy because I am not feeling well enough – those days are a struggle. Sometimes I don’t want to find acceptance, I just want to mourn, and that’s OK.
Each day is a new battle. I find acceptance, I mourn, or I do both. Each day I’m healing from the pain, both physically and emotionally, of living a life that is plagued with sickness. And giving yourself that space to heal, to search for acceptance and to mourn, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your joy or gratitude for your life. Gratitude and joy are still there waiting.
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