12 Ways to Find Light in the Darkness of Chronic Illness
Everyone that walks this earth experiences darkness during some point in life. After a break up, losing a loved one, losing a job, not getting into a dream school…The list goes on. Why me? How could I possibly be happy again? Will my life ever be normal after this? These are questions we often ask ourselves when we are stuck in a dark room, searching for the light switch and wondering if we will ever return to the world the same once we find it. Finding the light switch may seem impossible. It may seem easier to learn how to see in the dark rather than trying to find it, or we may not even want to find it.
For me, the darkness appeared when I became sick and doctors couldn’t figure out why.
During the first few months of struggling with not feeling well and not knowing why, many of my friends asked me how I could smile. Now, having been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses, my friends ask the same question. How could I possibly smile when daily I deal with pain, can be weighed down by fatigue, my body has changed, I am constantly pricked and poked by needles, and I can’t eat Oreos or pizza? Well, the answer is, I eat dark chocolate and there’s something called gluten-free crust. (Just kidding.)
I came to the realization that I could live my life feeling sorry for myself, or I could be grateful that I can breathe and walk on my own, pick my sorry self up and carry on with my life. I only have one life and there was no way I was going to spend it feeling sorry for myself. No one was going to join me in my little pity party, and what fun is a party all by yourself? All jokes aside, I came to a realization that I could live my life bogged down by what I suffer, or live a full life despite all of it. I chose the latter. I found the light switch when doctors finally gave me answers. And now I know I will not return to the world the same. Different, yes, but wiser, stronger and more empathetic and loving. Some days it is harder to live that way than others, which I why I came up with these ideals to live by.
1. Channel all of your emotions bottled up inside into positive ones.
Easier said than done, right? You have all of these emotions boiling inside of you, ready to bubble over – tension, anger, fear, sadness, loneliness. Whatever they may be, acknowledge them for what they are, but don’t let them boil over negatively. Take all of that energy built up inside of you, and let it boil over positively. Invest that energy you possess into activities or people that you love.
2. Take the time each day to think of three things that you are grateful for.
No matter how difficult your day has been, there are always at least three things in your life that you can be grateful for. When it feels as though you have lost everything in the world, this exercise reminds you that there is still some good in your life.
3. Remember what you do have, not what you don’t.
You don’t have your significant other, but you do have the time to embark on a self-reflection journey and learn how to be happy independently. You didn’t get into your dream college, but you did get into many other colleges that will provide you with an exceptional education and help bring you one step closer to your goals.
4. Be someone else’s light if you can’t be your own.
All humans possess love. It may be difficult to find under certain circumstances, but it is there. If you are unable or unwilling to give yourself love at this time, then give that love to someone else. Don’t let it just sit there. Embody it.
Thoughts, emotions, ideas. Don’t lash out on other people and bring them down just because you are upset. Write out your feelings and later you won’t have to apologize for what you said.
6. Think of the strength and wisdom that you have gained through your experience.
You can’t change your physical situation. You can’t change the past. So, instead of letting it affect your future, don’t. Take time to grieve or cry, if you may. Then, face the situation. Look it straight in the eyes and let it know that it can’t defeat you. It won’t. Don’t let it change your life more than it already has. Your strength has been tested through this ruthless, challenging experience. But, you are still alive. You faced the challenge and continued to live despite it all.
7. Take this time to connect with your faith.
Challenging times test our faith, which can make it waver. Don’t lose faith, find it. Find out what it truly means to you.
8. Use you experience to help others who are struggling.
Let others, and yourself, know that you are not alone. Be a source of wisdom, guidance and comfort for those who are also going through a difficult time. Knowing that you have helped someone else because of your struggle may ease your pain.
9. Recognize who has been by your side through this difficult time.
The friends who have been a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand, or a comforting presence are your true friends. Be grateful that this experience helped you come to this realization. Those are the friends you can count on and should invest your energy into.
10. Remember that the world is not against you. Everyone will face a battle. This just happens to be yours.
Your battle may seem worse than some others, but it also may be better. We aren’t guaranteed anything in this life: love, family, friends, health, security. At least you are still alive, in this moment. Be grateful for that.
11. Your battle does not define you. How you overcome the battle does.
Be someone who perseveres, not someone who succumbs to their situation.
12. You can’t always change your physical situation, but you can change your mental one.
Don’t waste your life away being trapped in a negative mind. For me, I couldn’t change the fact that doctors told me I couldn’t run anymore. Instead of being plagued by this restriction, I changed my mentality about the situation. I found a new love for barre and yoga.
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