Celebrating Independence Day When You Have a Chronic Illness
Believe! Believe that the best part of you was not in your yesterday. It was not before chronic illness.
I hear all too often, “I just want my old life back.” Well, I’m going to spin this for you as those of us who live on my side of the pond approach the Fourth of July and prepare to celebrate all that is free. But it holds true for anyone who finds themselves in this conundrum often.
As we thank those who fought for our freedom, as we honor and give much gratitude to those who continue to fight and lay down their lives, continue to give time, give all and every breath for freedom… I know we want our freedom as well. I understand the myriad things many of us have lost due to chronic and incurable illness, and let’s not forget that I, myself, fight with you. I’m not some “well person” trying to make a grandiose statement of arrival, trample on thin ice and sprinkle sunshine into a lost cause. I battle, you battle, we war together. But. Might I give you something to ponder a day in advance so you can prepare to celebrate – with everyone else – your very own kind of Independence Day?
Over the years I, myself, have gone through the dreadful days of wondering, where is my life? Why am I here? When will it get better and what do I do now? I have come to the conclusion that no, I do not want my old life back. I love this life. Why? Think about the old life and what this life has taught you about the old life. I’m about to get seriously real, but honest, and hopefully make you so free from that “old” thought process that this new chronically ill life will seem like the best place for opportunity because it is. Sickness forbearing, of course.
The new life has shaken the old and has shown us who the true people are. It has shown us the what is important. Where we need to truly place our focus, our energy. Why we can be free from anything we choose – because this is our life and we call the shots. We may have an illness or even multiple; however, illness doesn’t have us! Being chronically ill gives us a second chance to redefine ourselves as a whole if we want to – an opportunity most people never get, let alone take! Think of it as a career change. We get to redo anything and everything we want to. How incredibly awestruck would you be if you reframed and refocused this life-changing moment to your benefit?
That old life may have been sucking us dry. It may have been filled with fake people or a bunch of “yes” people only hanging out because we had money or status or were affluential. You know, those “fair weather friends.” Maybe you don’t know them, but my has my circle ever changed!
We may have been candle-burners and were running ourselves into the ground (I raise my hand high on this one!). Yes, sure, we may have been doing great works and attending or even hosting charitable events and serving on boards and committees and teaching extracurricular activities…but where was the balance? Where was the “me” time? Did we have time to breathe? Did we enjoy the air, the trees, the green grass underneath our bare feet, our children? Or were we stuck in a car breathing fumes all day long with the windows up? Or were our noses bound to electronic devices, giving us neck and back aches, while we ignored the summer sun or the crisp autumn breeze or crackling fire pit in winter?
I mean this with all of the love in my heart and soul. The type of freedom I pose isn’t in physical terms here. This is a metaphor for our mental and emotional well-being. Although we have to pace ourselves, as spoons are increasingly precious, we can have freedom within chronic illness. You can thrive with gastroparesis, seizures, POTS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, migraines and more. Those are diagnoses. They do not make up the entire person.
I battle all of those and more, and I know you may face many health challenges as well. My encouragement to everyone is to try and think of just one way to reframe your thoughts about chronic illness this holiday. Just start with one, and find a buddy to come alongside of you! A strong support system is vital in our journey.
Whatever internal battle you’ve been fighting, it’s time to free yourself fro it. It’s your Independence Day!
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Thinkstock photo via Choreograph.