When Illness Makes You Give Up the Commitments and Activities You Love
I just made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
Many of you can relate to my story. I’ve seen countless doctors, integrative general practitioners, naturopaths, chiropractors, and specialists over the last few years. When they couldn’t explain my symptoms, they diagnosed me with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). I’ve since been diagnosed with an ever-growing list of chronic illnesses, viruses, genetic mutations, and co-infections…the bottom line being, there is no magic cure for all of this.
Eight months ago, my doctor officially ran out of treatment options for the particular gene mutation that is currently causing the most drama. We had now trialled every treatment possible, with the last attempt making my hair fall out at a rather alarming rate, and it sent us firmly back to square one. With this new information, he gently told me it was time; time to give up all the activities of my full life, focusing only on work (a necessary evil) and getting better. Slowly I started saying goodbye to the things I loved, and began the painful processes of extracting myself from the various groups I volunteered with, the young women’s Bible study group I ran with my friend, my gym membership, the spontaneous beach trips, the list goes on and on.
At my next appointment, my doctor asked how I’d gone with removing commitments from my life and replacing them with rest. I told him there was one thing I wasn’t ready to part with yet, a volunteer group I run, the thing I am most passionate about. He smiled sadly and said, “I know.” He knew the incredible weight of the loss I was experiencing. I couldn’t let it go. That would mean I was actually sick. It would be the last thing I would part with.
Eight months later and here we are. With another three diagnoses added to an already long list and the light at the end of the tunnel well and truly out, I knew it was time. I made the incredibly difficult decision to step down from the one thing I was most passionate about. I made the call I’d been trying to avoid for months, and set in motion the beginning of the end. And then I sat in my room and sobbed. I cried for all the things I’ve lost to chronic illness, I cried for the person I used to be, and I cried for the person I’ll never get to be. There’s not a single day that goes by without being reminded of everything I’ve lost.
Here’s what I want you to know about grief:
There’s going to be good days and there’s going to be bad days. (Oh boy, there will be bad days.) You’ll grieve everyday for the person you once were, for the person you dreamed you’d be, for all the things you thought you’d do. You’ll grieve for everything you’re missing out on, for the life that’s flying past you, the people whose lives are moving on without you, and most of all you’ll grieve for everything you would have done if you weren’t sick. Your heart is going to break when it hits you that you’re missing out on your life. You’re going to hate every muscle in your body for betraying you, but it’s OK to be mad at your body when it’s failing you, it’s OK to be mad. It’s normal to grieve when you’ve lost something or someone and it’s important to acknowledge your grief. This is your journey, you can, and should, take all the time you need. It takes time to come to terms with loss, of any kind, so take your time.
I want you to know, it’s OK to cry when you’re hurting. But when you’re done, wash your face and pick yourself up off the ground – you don’t belong down there.
And lastly, I hope you know you’re brave, even when it feels like you’re not.
Getty Image by TeoLazarev