When I Can't Control How Chronic Illness Is Affecting My Body
OK, here it – the biggest and most important secret you will need to survive chronic illness.
The key to surviving chronic illness is surviving it in any way you can. Now I know what you may be thinking, “Really? Is this seriously the advice you’re giving me?” And my answer is yes.
Here’s the thing – chronic illness is unpredictable. One day you’ll be thinking, “Wow, this isn’t so bad. I can handle it.” And them bam. The next day you find yourself bed-bound as the weeks fly by, wondering if it will ever let up.
Chronic illness will get inside your head. It will fill your mind full of guilt-ridden thoughts and at some points it may hit you with so many feelings you can no longer even put a name to them. At best it can be described as a rollercoaster ride you never wanted to go on and have no idea when and if it will ever end.
On the bad days, do whatever it takes to hang in there and keep fighting. To you this may mean that you allow yourself to stay in bed, not wear any makeup and live in your sweat pants until the good days, where you can live the life you want. To others it may mean eating ice cream for breakfast because you have lost so much weight you need to put on calories in the fastest way you can. For some, it’s needing to keep saying, “Sorry, I am not able to come,” to their friends and loved ones.
The problem that so many of us face is that what we need to do for ourselves in order to allow the self-care we need to make it through the worst of times, but our own minds are telling us that because of these choices we need to make, something is wrong with us. We tell ourselves we are a bad mom or dad, wife or friend – and that we are lazy, or we are not trying hard enough.
But here’s the thing.
These thoughts, these ideas, are not doing anything but harming you even more. They are making the battle you are already fighting that much worse – and you still require the need to survive in any way you can. I can’t tell you how many countless days and sleepless nights I have spent feeling bad about my chronic illness. But at some point I realized I had to begin the process of acceptance. Neither I nor you chose this. Nobody in their right minds ever would, but it is what it is. These are the cards that you we were dealt and we have to decide how to make the best hand of it.
Trust me, it’s not easy. I, myself, still fight the onslaught of negative thoughts every single day. It never gets any easier, and I have to remind myself that while I cannot control how chronic illness is affecting my body, I can choose how it affects my mind. The difference between the me now and the me at the beginning of my illness is that now on my bad days, I allow myself to survive in any way I can. I give myself compassion, self-care, and love. I absolutely know that no matter what happens, and by doing what I need to do to survive, I am doing my absolute best – and that is OK.
Getty Image by JNemchinova