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Accepting There May Never Be Recovery With Chronic Illness

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Recovery is a interesting word. What does it even mean? Does it mean you are cured for good, or is it an ongoing process? The dictionary defines it in the following two descriptions:

1. a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength

2. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost

The second definition caught my eye.

“Regaining possession of something stolen or lost.”

In life there are times when we experience losses. Losses sometimes of great value. Losses one may question if they can ever get back. Losses one may question if they will ever truly really recover from.

Can a chronically ill person ever regain possession of the health that was stolen or lost from them?

Can an adult ever gain possession of innocence they lost at a young age due to childhood trauma?

Can a person ever recover from losing the love of their life? Whoever that was, can they feel whole again?

Can someone who feels broken ever really be fixed? Or will they always be slightly “broken” in one hidden way or another?

That’s a question swirling in my head these days.

I don’t want to be “broken” anymore. Not that I ever wanted to be broken in the first place. But how I wish I could close my eyes and open them and have everything suddenly be all better. I wish I could pretend everything away. Trust me, I’ve been trying super hard to forget I am sick. I push my body further than it is meant to go; I think I won’t feel the consequences because there won’t be any. I think I can talk my body out of being sick. I tell it I am going to act as if I am not sick. I tell myself  I am going to live the life of a healthy person. I’ve found myself stuck on this carousel that won’t let me off. I feel like an old school VCR stuck on fast-forward mode and I am waiting to hit the end. What happens next, I’m not really sure – but I feel as if I am catapulting towards it quickly and I’m a bit worried, to be honest.

But then I ask myself – if one thing hadn’t led to another and I wasn’t sick today, would I really be who I am now? Would I be able to understand when people are hurting and spot it from a mile away? Would I want to help others the way I do? Would I even be me? Sometimes though, I wonder who that even is.

I’m a blur of struggling to not fall off the edge and positively fighting the negativity.

So what does recovery really mean then? Does it mean going back to the person one used to be? So the next question would be, do I even want to? My eyes are so brightly opened now to life as it truly is. There are no rose-colored glasses here. There’s the truth as it exists. For some people, one day they wake up and are forever changed. There is no going back and for many that is a difficult pill to swallow. And I see that. I see it and I feel their pain. I watch as they transition through the various stages of grief. I watch as they experience loved ones judging and questioning their battle.
The saying that you can’t understand what a person is going through until you walk a mile in their shoes is 100 percent correct. Everything we think is based on our one-sided perspective.

So how could families or friends understand an illness that refuses to go away? After all, they had a cold, they went to the doctor, the doctor gave them a pill and they got better. They recovered. But their ability to recover from a common illness might limit their compassion, empathy or simply understanding when it comes to chronic illness. Why can’t their friend or family member get better? Thoughts slip in like “They must be bored or want the attention,” “They’re a hypochondriac” or “They spend too much time on the internet playing doctor with Google.”

So in an effort to prove to everyone that despite illness you are still worthy, still deserving of acceptance and understanding, you may travel down a dangerous road of proving this to yourself and to your loved ones. A never-ending push to be enough, to get it all done, to not let anyone down. Walk through the store with those body aches, go to work and maybe secretly cry through the longest ever shift, watch your children sing and dance to yet another song because going to bed and taking your pills can wait.

You don’t want to disappoint, you don’t want to be the reason they are let down, again. You don’t want to be the reason your family is held back for one reason or another. But in the end, sometimes you are and you will be. Maybe there might not be recovery.

The final stage of grief is acceptance.

Maybe you will be ill until further notice. Maybe you feel “broken.” But don’t let it define you, whether by fighting it or giving up to it. Accepting it is just that. You take the illness as it comes and enjoy it while it is gone. Don’t let it harm you by trying to prove it wrong and don’t stop living and dreaming your dreams because you have this new part of you.

But getting there is easier said than done. It won’t happen overnight. As I write these very words I have them on repeat in my mind. Some days will be darker than others and some days you’ll think you have finally accepted your circumstances totally. So take one day at a time. One hour at a time if you need to.

Breathe, close your eyes and breathe again.

You’ll get there. We will get there.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

Originally published: May 19, 2017
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