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How Reflection Enables Me to Be Content in Life With Chronic Illness


I spend a lot of time in my career using reflection for personal development. While the concept is not new to me, my understanding of the topic and its power in helping my progress is something that previously I hadn’t acknowledged.

I use reflection a lot to help me understand and appreciate the impact chronic illness has on my day-to-day life. While I can only speak for myself, I feel the role of reflection in chronic illness is underutilized. I am no fool in admitting I often find myself caught up in the hustle and bustle of illness – be that appointments, ensuring (and feeling guilty) for the self-care I practice or scouring the internet for the latest research that may help to alleviate some of the symptoms I experience.

 

The last few months have seen me battle with my anxieties as my health deteriorates and I begin to accept the accommodations and changes I need to make in my life to be happier and more functional. It’s exhausting, both physically and mentally, for pain to only ever alleviate when you’re sleeping – something I often struggle to convey to others and
which constantly plagues my mind.

At no point when I walked into the doctor’s office six years ago did I ever assume that all this time later I would still be experiencing mobility difficulties and struggling to stand for more than 20 minutes, with my days playing professional sports long behind me. When do the doctors tell you that you will grieve for your previous life? And when, if at all, do you begin to accept, move on and embrace this new life you’ve been given?

I feel this is where reflection is useful. As an introvert, I spend a lot of time in my head, thinking and putting the world to rights. I’m at the point now where I’ve reached a crossroads. Looking backwards, I can see everything this chronic illness has taken away from me: my hobbies, my love and commitment to sports, the spontaneity that comes with life and doing everything you want to do. Going forward, it’s uncertain. The part of my personality that has this need for control finds the concept of the unknown difficult to comprehend, but I think I’m getting so used to my body springing surprises upon me that nothing particularly shocks me nowadays.

While physically my body does not participate in the way I would want it to, reflection lets me appreciate the changes – and improvements – I am making every day to my life. Only recently am I beginning to appreciate the positive impact this is having.

Two months ago, I bought a walking stick that is now a constant accessory to my handbag. At 22 years old, this isn’t exactly a pair of sparkly earrings most people my age might prefer. Two years ago, this would have left me embarrassed for not fitting in with everyone else my age. Although I still remain self-conscious using my walking stick, it’s something I am embracing and I hold this to reflection for helping me. I am able to see the leaps and bounds my confidence has come on.

While there’s no going back to the past, and the future is uncertain, reflection enables me to be content with where I am. I owe this way of thinking to grieving my former self and the loss of identity I experienced as a result of being ill.

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Thinkstock photo via STEFANOLUNARDI.