From the Old Into the New: Embracing My Life With Chronic Illness
Quite an interesting title, I understand; however, as I pondered this writing for quite some time I couldn’t help but feel a welling up within me to share a piece of my journey that only those deep within my circle are aware of.
As a disabled, chronically ill person with multiple illnesses, why would we consider this life a “new” one? How could this even be possible? Far too often I read stories, social media posts, blogs and the like of people who are often stuck in the life that once was. The pondering thoughts of the career that can no longer be fulfilled, the family that doesn’t understand and support them, the friends that have turned their backs on them, the social events that are but a memory long gone…and my heart aches at the pain and sorrow that appears to be all-consuming.
I am often criticized for my optimistic approach to this chronically ill journey – at times, written about in the keenest of ways through poetry and prose. I do not let this sway me, however, for the reasons I am about to disclose. This is a very private part of my journey I hope will encourage change in your perspective on your own path.
In the beginning stages of my now many diagnoses, my family lost four family members to chronic illness within a few short years. In 2011, I lost my Aunt D, who was more of a mother figure to me and was the most difficult for me, personally, to go through. Following her passing I fell into a deep depression and wound up with an anxiety disorder in the same year. That was also the year I presented a seizure disorder which we now know is linked to one of my incurable illnesses called gastroparesis. Soon after, my mother’s father would pass away. My Aunt M, within the same family, passed suddenly due to complications from lupus and other illnesses and then my mother’s mother passed at the end stages of Alzheimer’s. Our family had experienced so much grief in such a short amount of time we wondered how we would recover from it. We couldn’t even hold a service for my grandmother because it was too unbearable for us all.
I went through talk therapy and medication management to work through my diagnoses, pulling from my coaching certification and one thing my aunt who had passed away in 2011 and I had made a pact about. This is the piece I’d like to bring out. She was always a bright and shining light in my life. Even during her chemo treatments. No matter how sick, no matter how bad the pain, she loved relentlessly and unconditionally. She made me promise that no matter what, I would not allow any illness to define me. She knew me. I was a fighter. I have always been a fighter. I was always positive and optimistic. I suppose I was born that way. I think it annoys people sometimes but I like to think it helps more than hinders. No matter, she made me promise to help as many people as I could with the gift of love and positivity. To be a light to others. To show them that in the midst of any storm they too could make it through if they had someone to encourage them and a hand to hold. And so I do. This has always been me.
Why “From the Old Into the New?” Because I’m not that person anymore. I’m not well. No, I’m not. I can’t do the things I once could but that’s OK! What I can do is something new! I’m a patient advocate, I’m a “teacher” regarding what I’ve tried as far as treatment plans and medications and I present that back to others (I am actually a former teacher so this ebbed and flowed quite nicely into my new path). I’m a coach and I encourage, love and lift others up. I’m a philanthropist and I give back with a team of other beautiful women who share the same heart as I do. I’m a mom of a child with autism and I advocate for him as well. I’m a lover of all people and I do not judge. That is not for me to do. I’m a lifelong learner of new things and I educate as much as I can. I appreciate balance on a whole new level and listen to my body and take more time for me instead of pouring every bit of it into the corporate world. More so, I have made new relationships that are true and matter, as opposed to false or pretentious ones where people are only there when it’s convenient for them. Is the “new” challenging? Yes! Is the “new” difficult? Sure! But is the “new” a little bit more real and fulfilling with more wonderful moments than the old? For me, I would say so!
I hope this encourages anyone who is still mourning the old life. The new one holds more than you think. You just have to look for it and have some support people in place to help you when you need it. Give yourself grace too. Sometimes it’s OK just to be OK.
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Thinkstock photo via kotoffei.