When Chronic Illness Stopped Me From Living the Life of My Dreams

“This isn’t my life.”

This thought goes through my mind every day. Probably, like it does for many of you. With the onset of several severe chronic illnesses, my life slowly changed before my eyes and at first I didn’t realize what was happening, or that it was even happening to begin with.

I now go through my days in a daze. I look back at the last few weeks, or months, or years and it feels like I have been living someone else’s life – not my own.

The sense of impending doom, loss of control and helplessness pervades life. Now of course, this can be interpreted as severe depression, and it has been by the mental health professionals in my life.

So, I made a decision. My husband can’t help me. My friends can’t help me. My family can’t help me. If I want a change in how I feel, maybe I need to try to help myself. Maybe I need to do things that help me take back control over my life.

It can be compared to grief. I went through a period of grieving for my old life, for my old self. Not everyone will go through these in the same order as I did. Not everyone will go through them at all, even. I actually go through cycles; I feel one way, then another, then back to the first, then to the last. These cycles can last hours, days – I can be stuck in one for a week, or go through them all in a matter of hours.

First step I went through was denial: “This isn’t happening to me, I’m just tired.” I tried to justify feeling the way I did, the fatigue, the pain, the consistent and differing symptoms.

Bargaining: “Well, maybe if I try this supplement, this diet, or this treatment. Or if I sleep better, or get a new pillow….”

Anger: “This isn’t fair! I should not be feeling this way, I’m only 30! Are these not supposed to be the best years of my life!?”

Depression: Feeling as I explained above. A sense of impending doom, loss of control, helplessness, etc.

Acceptance: Am I really there yet? Some days, yes. Certain hours of some days, yes. But overall? I am not sure. Can you ever really accept that your body has betrayed you? That you are a young adult and the life you had envisioned for yourself, the dreams, goals, career that you had in mind has flown out the window for good? Probably not. So what now? Give up? Continue to allow my days to just pass me by in a daze? Hell no.

I am not living the life I dreamt, that’s true. New dream. I am not dead. I am not bedridden (most days). I still have my mind. There can be things in this world that I can still enjoy. A life to be had and a life to lead where maybe, just maybe I can help someone else, make a difference. I am lucky in that I haven’t had to get a menial job just to be able to survive. I am lucky that I will have the financial aid I need to go back to school. I am lucky to have a loving, supportive husband and two Huskies that make my life better. I am lucky to have friends and family that try to understand what I’m going through. For a little context it must be said that my husband is also disabled, lives with chronic pain and can’t work. I saw him lose his dreams, his career (military), his health, and his body before I lost mine.

I was a veterinary technician. I was on my feet for 99 percent of my shift. I had to help lift heavy animals. Be on the ground working on them. Help restrain and hold my body in positions that were so painful I almost passed out when doing so the last few months working. I would get home and not be able to walk…Until my next shift. I was so afraid of making a terrible mistake. Of doing something I couldn’t fix or take back. I left the career I loved, the only career I had since coming out of high school.

New dream. I will be going back to school this coming spring. My goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker. I was also diagnosed last month with type 2 diabetes, so there are many changes I need to make in my lifestyle. Mainly exercise and eating habits. I am taking steps to take my life back. A year from now when I look back, I want to say, “Yup, that’s me. This is my life.” My chronic conditions won’t disappear. The pain won’t magically end. The grief of what I lost will always be in a corner of my heart and mind, but I will not just disappear quietly into the night. I will not shrug my shoulders or lie down and give up. I will make the changes that I need to make. I will slowly, one day at a time, one hour at a time, consciously do better. I will learn how to cope with these conditions – all 16 of them that I have been diagnosed with.

New dream. Don’t give up. A choice is only a mistake (or a failure) if you give up.

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