When You Feel Like a Stranger to Your 'Old Life' of Better Health

Another year is starting and the family holidays are behind us. During those holidays, did your friends and family pull out old pictures of you and tell stories about different times in your life? Sometimes, tales about before you got sick or when you were “better?” In my case, people often tell stories of when I was better in terms of my illness than I am now.

A lot of feelings can bubble up when this happens: anger, bitterness, even resentfulness. You can have these feelings about yourself, God, your family and friends. They can be hard to deal with, especially when you know the holidays are meant to be a cheerful time. I would like to echo, as I have time and time again in this column, that your feelings are valid. You are allowed to feel whatever it is you feel, for as ever long as you need to. We all deal differently with the hands we are dealt.

Other factors also come into play when old pictures and stories start making their way around the dinner table, such as my father passing away when I was a child. When I look at old pictures and hear others tell their versions of my life, I sometimes feels like that was another lifetime — as if this didn’t happen to me, or as if I didn’t live through that time. Even though I did, and know the events are true — they feel remote, another lifetime ago.

This can be extremely uncomfortable, and I think most people with a chronic illness keep quiet about these feelings because they’re so difficult to understand. It takes time, but you can make peace with your old life, with your past. I don’t know how, honestly. I think you adjust with time. You age and you mature, and you make peace with whatever life you had before. But the thing about a chronic illness is that you have to constantly keep making new peace with yourself. You need to constantly forgive yourself, rebuild and start over. You need to constantly find a new normal, sometimes day to day. I promise you, the effort is worthwhile. Life does and will get better, even if that seems impossible, even if right now you feel uncomfortable — remind yourself of how far you have come and all that you’ve been through. You are tough. You are worthy.

This blog was originally featured on Cerebral Palsy News Today.

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