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When I Didn't Know How to Move Past the Shattered Pieces of My Health

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They talk of people starting their lives over. They need a fresh start. Maybe something tragic has happened and they have to pick up the pieces around them and carry on. But how exactly do they accomplish that? What does it take to look around you, realize some things are simply never going to change and to be OK with that and simply carry on?

I’ve been stuck in a place of wanting to move forward but not knowing how. I am fully aware my life is not going to be what I planned it to be. I had my goals, and I achieved many of them. But then my circumstances changed, my health shattered and since then I’ve been stuck surrounded by those pieces of glass, too afraid that if I moved forward, I would get hurt. Too afraid that the tiny pieces of glass would get stuck forever if I tried to escape them. What does that even mean? I was stagnant. Totally and completely frozen. Stuck in frustration over the wife I felt I couldn’t be, the mommy I struggled to be and the constant longing to be the friend to someone I knew I could be, even if that meant coming to their house just to lie on their couch, but to be there nonetheless.

One day, I realized my surroundings, the home I worked so hard to make a peaceful and healing haven — yes, those very four walls — were closing in on me. I was stuck behind the curtains. It was a wake-up, do-your-best struggle through the day, rinse-and-repeat cycle of surviving. Because of the chronic and endless illness, I put all my energies into surviving, not living. And just surviving was getting draining, it was getting old. So how do you start over when you are not sure where you are starting from? How do you start life over, with your new “normal,” finally accepting that as so? This has been heavy on my mind. As my dark days turned into dark nights, simply surviving was becoming difficult. I had to find a way out of the shattered glass I was surrounded by.

I know I’m not alone. I know someone’s out there reading this, feeling exactly the same way. 

So what now? Where do we go from here?

Make a plan. Think about what you want in life. I mean really think about it. You might not be able to do what you did before, so think about what you can do now. Instead of living in the past of what you planned, wanted, or thought you should be doing, think about what it means to live in the now — taking in what you can do in this moment. Can you get out of your four walls and do even a little bit of what you’ve wanted to? A little bit can be better than none, and that is something I am trying to come to terms with right now. I thought if I couldn’t engage in my volunteer work on a full-time level, the little bit I could do was simply not enough. But the only person it wasn’t enough for was me. The only person in the way of me doing a little bit of what I loved was me. There will always be laundry, chores, errands, bills, and unfortunately it appears there will always be this chronic illness in my present life. So how can I live a life I love within those circumstances? 

Instead of always comparing my healthy life and my healthy goals to what life is now, I needed to make new goals and plans within my present circumstances. Maybe I can’t be the play-date-every-hour-is-planned-out-with-activities mom, the full-time volunteer, the shop-till-you-drop girlfriend or the wife who never has to bail on plans for a date with her husband because she is just too exhausted to function. I had to let those thoughts go once and for all.

Suddenly I realized, instead of trying to find a way out of the shattered glass, I needed to clean it up. Get out the broom and risk a few pieces getting stuck in my feet, because to me that is better than being forever stuck. But it wouldn’t be easy; it would be a slow steady process. But one step forward was better than no steps at all.

There will still be plenty of days that surviving is all we can do. Days the pain is going to hurt so bad, we will still look back to the past and long for what was before. That can’t be avoided, and that is OK. Sometimes our body will trump our mind, it will demand we go back into survival mode to just get to the next day.

But on the days life feels lighter, enjoy it however possible. Live it, breathe it, take it all in. A cup of coffee, a quick trip to your favorite store. Try to find friends who will accept you for you and won’t be wanting more than you can give. It might take time for this to happen. It might take a lot of strength on your part. To put yourself out there again, to figure out who you are again, to realize your maybe not-so-new circumstances may not be going away (for now). But try to grow within them.

Stop hiding your sparkle behind the curtains. 

Let it shine. Let it out.

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Originally published: December 29, 2016
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