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When I Realized I Can't Keep 'Pushing Through' Life With Chronic Illness

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I can’t adequately explain the frustration that comes with having all of the mental motivation and emotional desire to do so many things — and then having a body that, due to chronic ailments, either fights you relentlessly the whole time or completely shuts itself down and refuses to function.

I used to pick and choose activities with the understanding that expending energy for one thing meant that I would need to recuperate for a few days before doing anything else. I set up my schedule as intentionally as possible to set aside buffers for recharging and resting. It worked for quite a while, several years in fact. But now, over seven years into this journey still holding no answers and no relief, I am finally at a point where “pushing through” to any extent is no longer a guaranteed possibility.

My body has been worn down. My symptoms are more intrusive, more encompassing, and more overwhelming now than ever before. I’m finally at a point where I have to admit to myself, and everyone else, that I can’t do so many of the things that I love and want to do without making myself physically ill, excessively fatigued or severely pained. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, and I’m stubborn about my independence.

I’ve been forced to become much more dependent on those in my life — my spouse, my family, my friends and my community. As a highly independent person, this has caused an identity crisis within me that I’m trying to work through while being directly in the midst of experiencing it. I’m a driven person who is hard-headed about surrendering to any adversary or obstacle, but today I’m finally admitting that I’m tired.

I’ve been in a battle for nearly a decade, and I’m burning out from fighting in every waking moment. I’m neither being negative nor requesting a pity party. I’m simply being real and raw and vulnerable with you all because this is the other side of the person you all know and see daily.

I often refer to myself these days as a “realistic optimist” — someone who can often find the bright spot in any situation, but also acknowledges that sometimes life just sucks. Experiences and relationships can hurt. Bad and traumatic things happen. The rollercoaster of human existence rages on. We can’t stop life as it barrels towards us full speed, and unfortunately, it doesn’t stop to give us a reprieve, even when we are struggling. It just keeps charging at us, head on.

And in those moments, all we can do is:

Dig deep into our spirit.

Harness the grit and vigor that lies within.

Cling tight to hope, and to each other.

Fight like hell to stay afloat.

And keep moving forward to what lies ahead.

Getty image by Vadim Cherenko.

Originally published: December 21, 2020
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