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Learning to Be OK With the Ways Illness Has Changed Me

I have been ill since mid 2014. The illness started with acquiring severe asthma and that then caused type 2 diabetes. Illness has brought a lot of changes, physically and psychologically. In addition, we have had to move 1200 km to a warmer climate.

For a long time acceptance was what I was trying to achieve, but I don’t think “acceptance” is quite the word I want to use to describe where I am at now.

Wikipedia defines acceptance as “a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it. The concept is close in meaning to acquiescence, derived from the Latin acquiēscere (to find rest in).”

There are still things I can change or control about my health… I can exercise (when well enough), I can manage my food intake and eat in a healthy way (pretty important when you have type 2 diabetes), I can choose to find gratitude in each day, I can maintain the spiritual aspects of my life and use this to keep me more grounded in reality. I can actually follow the advice of health professions. In this way I am changing things about my illness.

For example, by exercising and eating sensibly I can keep my blood glucose levels within a narrow range and thus reduce the progression of this disease.

I no longer try to be positive all of the time! I have found trying to be positive counterproductive! It is OK for me to have struggle days. It is OK to be fed up with constantly monitoring blood glucose levels and what I eat. It is OK to feel frustration when an asthma episode stops me from doing something. I prefer to recognize these feelings as legitimate and let them pass. I don’t want to jolly myself along or try to be positive all the time! My emotions have to be recognized or they will eat away at me. I am reconciled to the emotional impact of chronic illness.

Today, I found this beautiful image and quote.

'illness changes who we are. illness teaches, yet it tarnishes. it can define, but it prefers to refine. illness has potential to divide, but it can reconcile. you are not your illness, yet your illness will shape who you become. will you be filled with hope? or bold with bitterness? illness will change you. how will you allow it to change your life?' -- lisa copen

This really describes what chronic illness is like.

There is a new me. I live at a much slower pace now. I ask for help – I rarely did this before. I have limitations now that I didn’t have before becoming ill. I have a great appreciation for others who struggle with illness on a daily basis, and I have become much more compassionate. I have had to become patient! All those long waiting times in doctors’ surgeries! There are so many other facets of chronic illness that demand patience, e.g. getting a diagnosis, getting treatment sorted out, etc.

I am happy to have “nothing” sort of days, to just be. I have let go of many dreams and “wants” I had, e.g. traveling. I have had to think about what really matters. When you have limited reserves of energy, limited well days and limited ability to do things, you have to decide what really matters.

So yes, I  think the right word for me may be “reconciled.” I am finally becoming OK with having these awful illnesses in my life, but I will continue to try to change the impact of these chronic illnesses as much as I can! The reconciliation is the being able to connect something dreadful having happened (being ill) and seeing this illness as having led to a new me. I am OK with the new me.

Being ill has changed me in oh so many ways.

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Photo via Image Source on Getty Images