Struggling to Accept My New Reality of Life With Chronic Illness
Accepting this new reality, my chronic illness journey, is daunting. It’s not what I envisioned my life would look like. It’s not a complication I fully anticipated. I thought I’d work on my health and I would feel better. I didn’t expect I’d get worse.
I come from a family with rare diseases. I’ve watched chronic illness, sometimes on a daily basis. I was aware of what that looked like. Now, I guess I know what that feels like, too.
It’s hard to live in a body that feels like it’s sabotaging your future, like your body is giving up on your dreams without any say from you. I’ve fought hard to survive and also to thrive and move forward from so much. I had just started to grab ahold of a brightening future and relished in the newfound freedom that comes with concentrating on myself. I had just begun to celebrate. Chronic illness had to go and crash the party.
I understand life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and easy days; I’ve known that even before chronic illness started kicking my butt. There will be tough days in each of our lives. I think that’s pretty much one of life’s guarantees. But illness? Chronic conditions without cures? I don’t think many of us can ever be adequately prepared to learn that news.
Society has taught us if you feel sick, you go to the doctor. Rarely, if at all, has it prepared us for the reality of a doctor having no cure, no diagnosis and in some cases, no idea what’s making us sick. We get sick believing we’ll eventually get better, but unfortunately, that’s not always the way it works.
Because of this, we’re left with the only choice to accept our current reality of being chronically ill. Acceptance is a huge roadblock on my journey. Granted, I’m going to my appointments, seeing my doctors and heeding their instructions. I’m following my current treatment plan. But have I really accepted this is my reality? No.
I think there is a certain element of grief that comes along with being told you have an incurable or long-term illness. There is a loss that will inevitably have to be grieved. In my case, that loss is the loss of control, of understanding my life will look different, that my future will always include sickness. It’s the grieving of losing a life you may have had, but is now gone.
What gives me hope is that eventually the grief will lift and acceptance will be my companion on this journey. Will there be days the grieving will return and I will fight acknowledging this is my reality? Yes. But, I know that not only is this natural, but OK. It’s OK to mourn what chronic illness took from you. It’s also important to celebrate what it has given, too.
Like, the fact I treasure unconditional love, the same love I gave those dear to me with chronic health conditions before I even started my own battle.
It showed me patience. To be patient with others and also with myself. It’s about understanding it’s going to be slow moving quite often, but slow is still forward momentum.
It’s taught me to embrace what I can do. There will be days I can’t always do what I want or typically would, but on the days I can, I’m going to bask in each moment.
I’m proud of me. I often forget this one, but it doesn’t ring any less true. I am proud, proud of the fighter inside of me, of the person who has fought to take care of myself, of not giving up even on the days I feel like it.
I’m proud of myself, just as I’m proud of every chronic illness warrior out there. No, we didn’t ask to be part of this community, but it’s a community I’m honored to be a part of. And that’s one more thing that my sickness gave me … a community of warriors who understand.