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Learning to Celebrate My Accomplishments With Chronic Illness

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Getting out of bed and down the stairs is a huge accomplishment for me. It seems insignificant compared to other people who are able to run 5Ks (if this is you, you’re amazing), go on shopping sprees (if this is you, you are also amazing) and drive to work (and then work for hours) every day, but I have to remind myself that comparing my accomplishments to other people’s isn’t really fair to me. Especially since I have chronic and mental illnesses.

I know I’m not alone in this boat, and that’s a good thing; otherwise, I would have capsized, because I’m horrible at rowing. It’s just hard for me to keep from comparing. Maybe you’re struggling with the same thing. Can we all just struggle together, please? Because I need a struggle buddy.

Realizing what my accomplishments are in a world full of high expectations is about as hard as climbing Mt. Everest in flip-flops. I hope no one’s ever tried that.

Like right now? I just decided to take a walk around the block. It sounds simple, but here’s my predicament: now I’m completely out of energy for the rest of the day and my back hurts and my joints are yelling at me and my blood pressure is mocking me and my heart rate is refusing to slow down.

Don’t do the sympathy thing. I’m only saying this to be honest; I don’t want you to be sorry for me. This is the kind of stuff that makes me tough as nails.

Anyway, I’m temporarily bedridden because I got dressed (another huge accomplishment), walked outside (a major accomplishment) and walked the entire block.

That’s my equivalent of a 5K, and you know what? I’m OK with that. Well, sort of. It’s just really hard to refrain from looking at someone and going, “Look! They have a job and a car and can go to social events without a second thought! Wow, they are an amazing human.”

So, since it’s been especially hard for me today, I’ll give myself some credit. “Look, Brooklyn, you got out of bed and got dressed and went downstairs and walked around the block. Wow – you are an amazing human!” I may or may not be smirking and being snarky but I really do mean it. It takes (and is still taking) a lot of work to realize that doing everyday things (even if it’s just one. thing.) is a major, celebratory accomplishment for me. Do I wish I could do more than that? Absolutely. And sometimes I do. (Not without paying a price, but hey, life isn’t cheap.)

As for right now, though, I’m content with the little things. OK, maybe not fully content, but I’m doing my best.

My friend put it this way: “Because we continue to struggle, we get to celebrate the small things. Normal people only celebrate the big things, but we celebrate every small step, which is what God wants us to do. Normal people miss out on that.”

And she’s exactly right.

Normal people do miss out on that.

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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem.

Originally published: May 15, 2017
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