Even With Chronic Illness, You Can Still Make a Difference

So, three years after being diagnosed with a handful of autoimmune diseases and a dash of fibromyalgia, I’ve decided to go back to work. Not just work, but teaching high school.

It’s been eight class days since the first day of school, and three full weeks of a full-time work week, and I am thoroughly exhausted. Not only am I physically worn down and sore from top to bottom, my brain is on overload. I’m tired, unable to focus and literally having trouble just completing sentences.

But, I think I am going to be OK. I not only think I’m going to survive the year, I think I am going to have a great year. It’s funny how kids and colleagues and teaching a topic I am passionate about can detour me from dwelling on the effects of my chronic illness.

I’ve done a variety of things I’ve enjoyed since my diagnosis, but none of them has filled the void that was left when I left the classroom in 2012. I just had no idea how much I needed to teach… how fulfilled I am when I can share my knowledge and passion with kids, but more importantly how much that fulfillment can replace the burden of chronic pain and fatigue.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all still there… the pain, the fatigue, the brain fog – my diet has gotten worse these last few weeks due to lack of planning, so I am technically feeling worse than I did before school started. But, it’s different. Fulfilling my desire to teach and lead kids has given me hope that I haven’t had for awhile.

I can still make a difference in the world. I can still do what I love even if it’s not with as much time and energy as I had before. I can make it through the day without feeling sorry for myself, and I can hold it together for an eight-hour day. I can do more than I thought I could just a few months ago, and it feels so good even though it hurts.

I guess the point of my story is this: there’s hope after your diagnosis. We all know that with proper self-care, we can feel a little better, but what used to get me down was that I felt like I was never going to be the person I was before my body started attacking itself – let alone better than I once was. I had lost an enormous amount of self-esteem and confidence and had nearly convinced myself that I could never really make a difference anymore.

But, I can. I am. Slowly, and surely, I can do this. I can still do what I love and so can you… so should you. For me, I am back in the classroom (followed by a long soak in the tub every afternoon). For you, maybe it’s just a couple hours a week doing what makes you happy or sharing your passion with others.

Whatever it is, I challenge you to try. You can still make a difference. You are still so valuable to your family and your community, and even if it requires an extra 20 minutes in a hot shower, or a quick cat nap afterwards, it’ll be worth it to feel valuable again. So darn worth it.

Good luck, Mighty friends… we’ve got this!

Getty Image by Grandfailure

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