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Why I’ll Fight for What I Want to Achieve in 2017 as a Person With a Chronic Illness

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I’ve always found New Year’s Eve to be simultaneously inspirational and anti-climactic. I adore Halloween and Christmas — the occasion, the theme, the build up — but New Year’s Eve is something I’ve never particularly warmed to.

While the night itself never left me overly enthusiastic, I do love the idea of the New Year and what it represents — a fresh start. New goals, new dreams and new stationary (I really like stationary).

Last year, I had a set of specific goals in mind — I would take a temporary hiatus from working for a month to get my health under control before finding a great new job, lose the weight that I had been unable to despite making all the necessary lifestyle changes and save money to go travelling the following year. An optimistic set of goals to say the least.

One year later, I’m still sick. They still don’t really know what’s wrong with me or how to treat it. I can’t work, a side effect of my condition is that I gain weight very easily and it’s almost impossible to lose it again and setting off to backpack around the world is just not an option right now. It’s safe to say that I didn’t achieve any of the New Year’s resolutions that I so optimistically set.

They say you should set SMART goals — goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Based. This can be difficult to do when you live a life of uncertainty. There are so many variables that dictate the life of someone with chronic illness. We can plan and try to manage our symptoms and energy levels as best we can, but at the end of the day, we don’t know if the rug will be pulled out from under our feet. How can I set attainable, time-based goals when I don’t know what’s realistic anymore?

Deciding that I will “be better” by a certain date only put pressure on me to recover, and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t reach that deadline. I don’t know when I will flare or if a certain month will require most of my energy to go towards medical tests or starting new treatments. I’m also aware that placing deadlines and restrictions on my desired achievements isn’t ideal. It will put pressure on me when stress is already contributor to my flares. Yet I refuse to give up. I will not abandon the things I want to achieve because of this illness. It is a tightrope, treading a narrow line between not over doing it and not giving in. 

I wracked my brain this year, trying to think of SMART goals that I could realistically set. Gradually, I came to accept that my illness is an unknown variable that makes this extremely difficult. This doesn’t mean that I’ll give up. It means that, like other aspects of my life, I have to modify my approach to allow for the uncertainty of my illness. Some days I can do a lot. Some days all I can do is get out of bed. How do you plan around that? For a while, I felt that it was hopeless. How could I set achievable goals when I don’t know what I’ll be able to do?

I was re-reading “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” over Christmas, and I saw this quote:

“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

It clicked for me then. I may not have completed the resolutions that I set last year, but that didn’t stop me from achieving other manageable goals I chose to set around my illness. I kept exercising when I could, even if I couldn’t lose weight because I enjoyed it. I took an online course in social media marketing, so that even if I couldn’t work I could upskill for the time when I could go back to work. This year, my major achievement was to keep going. It was to choose to keep trying, even if I wasn’t always able to reach my goal. It’s something that I am very proud of.

This year, I’ve dealt with chronic fatigue, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple medical tests and treatments. I’m sure many of you reading this have had your own issues that you’ve had to deal with. We’re all in different stages of our lives, our illnesses, treatments and recoveries. Yet here we are, another year on, and we’re still choosing to keep trying. Personally, I think that’s brave.

My New Year’s resolution is to fight for what I want to achieve. My success isn’t dependent on accomplishing my goals, but in my attempt to reach it. My resolution — no matter how hard things get or how hopeless I feel — is to not give up. I will do my best with what I am capable of doing that day. Some days that may mean getting out of bed. Others it may be going to the gym. Maybe I’ll reach a place where I can go back to work. I won’t be setting deadlines for these hopes, but I will continue to do my best to move towards them.

I will not put a sell-by date on my dreams.

This year, I choose hope. I choose to keep fighting. Yes, there will be bad days, hard days and days where I just want to stay in bed and cry and rage against how unfair this all is. I will allow myself the time to mourn, and then I will pick myself back up and keep going.

My New Year’s resolution sounds simple, but it’s one of the hardest things we can do. No matter how much it feels the odds are stacked against me, II won’t give up. I would love if you would join me.

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: December 31, 2016
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