Why I Don't and Won't Cope With My Illness
I have always had a problem with idea of “coping” with life.” You see, I don’t think life is about coping…It is to be fully lived, rich in every emotion, passionate. Coping implies putting up with your lot in life. The dictionary defines “cope” as “to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success.” Is this all that I can expect from life with a chronic illness? I certainly hope not.
There are myriads of articles from psychologists about coping mechanisms and dealing with stress. Yes, these ideas can be helpful particularly when dealing with a specific situation or an immediate stress. I have probably even applied some of these approaches when I first faced this illness. That was two and a half years ago.
There’s the adaptive (helpful) and the maladaptive (not helpful) coping strategies, so I read. Crying and emotional outbursts were probably the two most identifiable strategies that I instinctively used. The crying happened with the realization that my life had changed forever in a way I had never foreseen. Crying also brought me love, support, encouragement from my closest friends and family. For me, it was also essential as a form of release, I think that I must have learned this way of responding as a child.
The emotional outbursts allowed me to vent my frustrations with the situation. This gave me a release and helped me to move forwards towards acceptance. Emotional outbursts weren’t directed at anyone else….It was just about the situation and feeling powerless. I wanted to throw things about!
Now that stage has passed and I have learnt a great deal about myself since then and since becoming ill. I have time to think in a way I have never had before. These are some of the things that I have learnt:
1. I cherished independence, now I am learning to be dependent and gracious about it too.
2. I have immense gratitude towards my husband, family and close friends who have been with me since this started.
3. I need to have time on my own, I physically need to slow down and rest.
4. I listen to my body and respect its needs.
5. I can be happy despite being unable to do many of the things I used to enjoy.
6. I am impatient and proud. This has made accepting being ill, and asking for help, quite a mountain to climb
7. Not to judge a person’s appearance. I have become obese due to steroids, and I hate being judged. I don’t enjoy obesity.
8. I can let go of things, what matters most to me has changed – wanting peace is much more important than busy- ness and excitement.
9. I have stopped pushing, trying to test the limits (most of the time).
10. I enjoy little things. A good book, flowers blooming, the warbling of birds. I have learnt to “smell the roses.”
11. I don’t have to be “doing” all the time.
12. I am slowly becoming better at listening.
13. Many friends have dropped off the radar, and that is OK.
14. Not being in control freaks me out.
“Coping” can also mean, “Muddle through, get by, scrape by, bear up, keep ones head above water, weather the storm.” There is no storm to weather. Illness is always present and won’t pass. I need and want more than, “Bearing up, scraping through, keeping my head above water.”
Abraham Lincoln said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” This means that I don’t have to cope. I can make up my mind. I can make a choice to be happy despite my body. “Happy” and “cope” seem to be contradictory and mutually exclusive to me.
Life is precious. Life regardless of illness has love, joy, happiness and opportunities. There is still opportunity for passion. It also has the deep sadness of loss of a loved one, or of anger and other “negative” emotions. This is life. Strong, passionate means for me that I still fully living. I just live in a different way now.
I do not to cope, I won’t cope.
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