Why Hope and Optimism Are My Greatest Allies in Battling Chronic Illness

Hope and Optimism

It’s hard, sometimes, remembering that hope and optimism can immediately change the way we look at things. We can quickly get dark thoughts and the next thing we know, hope and optimism fly out the window. All we’re left with are worry and dread. It’s quick and we think immovable. I assure you… if you focus on your two greatest allies… they can also make those nasty bits fade away just as quickly.

Illness, especially chronic illness, is an endurance challenge. For all you “Tough Mudders” out there – triathletes, marathoners and the like: the hours and hours of training you put in… the “getting out there” on a chilly morning to do your day’s routine… the miles and miles of roadways that end with a flash and a shudder as you cross the finish line… are always worth it.

I have run a couple of half-marathons and the long suffering has an end point… an objective. A place you can point to and stop and say “I did it.” Not so, for those dealing with chronic pain and chronic illness. There is no “end of the road,” no finish line… no tape, and no medal despite all the effort.

That is when finding hope and optimism is a real challenge. When we have to really dig deep and find out what’s in there. And it’s rough and tumble in there. I promise, there is no smooth path when you’re dealing with a long-term illness. The ups and downs are unrelenting, swoops and corners and curving alleyways all the while. Nothing seems to go as planned.

Seeking out comfort

I was flipping through my journal from the beginning of this illness and I stumbled upon a great reminder that popped up. It was at a time when I really needed something with me to remind me of the goodness that is out there (and in there).

It’s a great one from one of our greats:

“It is not said enough, so I’ll say it again: the world is a good place, full of good people and when we act out of that; when we act out of hope and optimism, and faith in our fellow human, we act out of our best selves, and we are capable of doing great things, and contributing to the greater good. Hope and optimism are not synonymous with naivety. We should be looking to the future with flinty and steely eyes, for sure, but they should be wide open with hope, not squinting in fear.”

– Stuart McLean

“When we act out of faith in our fellow human, we are capable of doing great things and contributing to the greater good.”

You see… it’s when I act out of faith in others that we, as a group, are capable of doing great things. It’s not the actions of others that inspire me to do great things; it’s when I trust that others are good, that good things happen. Easy as that.

Little miracles are everywhere

I can go on and on about the little miracles and magic moments that have transpired as I have gone along in this journey that I would never have chosen for myself. Any number of things have happened that just “should not” be possible that really did happen. I like to believe that when I keep my faith and my hope and my optimism at the forefront of my heart when I am dealing with anyone in this endeavor, that it is up to me to set the tone with which I want to be confronted.

Here are some of my tips:

  • Put a smile in your voice when you call that doctor’s office and learn everyone’s name.
  • Ask the receptionist how her/his day is going (you’re going to be talking a lot with each other).
  • Accept each response with a smile and a nod (even if it is not at all what you want to hear… and cry when you get off the phone or into the car).  It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I feel really disappointed to hear that… how can we fix this?” (so you are not assigning blame, just expressing your regret and offering a way out).
  • Tell the truth even if it means you are imparting something personal.
  • And answer “how are you?” with a real answer.
  • Thank people… a lot.
  • Write letters when you are treated really well. Tell supervisors, superiors and heads of departments when you have a great experience with someone.
  • Be genuine in your praise (false intent is seen by most people and it does not go over well).

Hope and optimism are yours from the get-go. They’re like the clothes you put on in order to start your day when living with a chronic illness. It’s a good idea to connect with hope before you pick up the phone. Keeping your two allies at the forefront is the challenge but you see, good things don’t just happen to good people; good people act with hope and optimism, and then others want to live up to their level, and we all do a little better.

I hope your day is filled with hope, optimism and something truly wonderful.

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Getty Image by HASLOO

This story originally appeared on My Something Wonderful.

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