Why the Only Constant Is Change in My Life With Chronic Illness
To a large degree, we may be able to create workable daily routines, manage our medications and medical appointments, and keep life ticking along so we maintain our equilibrium as much as possible.
With that said, I actually love change. I even worked as a change management consultant for large organizations, and I was in my element in that role.
Change doesn’t faze me. I’m trained to find solutions. I know and believe change is an opportunity — a chance to grow, develop, and learn.
Given my past, you might think I would cope well with my ostomy appliance being discontinued or my mobile podiatrist no longer visiting my suburb, or my cleaner no longer being able to clean my home. Yes, it’s all happening at once. That’s life, though. Change can all come at once, and somehow, we may need to be equipped to deal with it — on top of managing our daily chronic illness challenges.
The “Small” Challenges
I have used my ostomy product since my stoma was formed just over eight years ago. It works perfectly for me. I love it. I’ve never had an issue with it. It is my security blanket.
Having a stoma is a positive thing for me. My life before I got it was hard. My bowel was completely non-functioning due to a severe rectal prolapse.
Just because I’m happy having a stoma doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. Having a stoma can create its own set of challenges. It may take a while to feel confident with it, and because I also have a rare, debilitating bone disease, I have a whole range of life-changing complexities to deal with.
So seeing the words “Your product has been discontinued” with regards to my ostomy product is beyond disconcerting. To be completely honest, it’s slightly terrifying.
There are many excellent products available through numerous ostomy companies. Sounds good, doesn’t it? However, the array of choices available presents its own set of issues.
To find the right product, I need to sample as many as possible. The process is exhausting — especially when I need to keep my regular routine in place to help manage my pain.
I’ll get there, I’ll work through the process, and I’ll arrive at the point of accepting a new product. I’m sure before long, whichever ostomy appliance I choose will become my new “security blanket.”
As I was contemplating my dilemma, I found myself saying, “Oh well. Nothing lasts forever.”
Knowing Nothing Lasts Forever
Change requires acceptance. Remembering that “nothing lasts forever” actually helped me to begin to focus my thoughts in a more positive way. I began to look beyond my current circumstances and think about the future.
The one inevitable thing in life is change.
My beautiful dad passed away a year ago. I couldn’t control it. His passing was inevitable. All I can do now is find ways to cope with the grief, remember the good times, and find a way to live again without him in my life.
It’s a completely new chapter of my life.
The whole cycle of life points to the fact that nothing lasts forever. Still, sometimes it’s the small changes in life that can cause us to crumble and feel as if everything is all too much.
I think when this happens, it’s often because there are larger life-changing issues at play. Perhaps we are grappling with financial issues, relationship issues, the loss of a loved one, or health struggles. The list of things that worry us — and also present the need to make changes in our lives — are often complex and can eat away at us bit by bit if we don’t address them.
Addressing the Life Changes
How can we deal with the unexpected changes in our lives?
As with almost anything, accepting change is a process. I like to keep the process simple — especially when I’m dealing with complex situations.
My approach to any life-changing event is to start making time to stop and think. It’s often crucial to be deliberate and focused when dealing with change. Here’s the step-by-step process I follow. I hope it helps you find a way to cope with your own challenges with change:
- Find a quiet place to sit with a nice cuppa or other favorite drink.
- Have a notebook or your phone handy to jot down your thoughts.
- Ask yourself why this small change is making you feel so stressed.
- List other life events that are concerning you. It’s important to acknowledge these things now — even though you may be focused on “small” changes now.
- Read carefully through the concern list you’ve created.
- Ask yourself if you can do anything to start addressing some of the more “major” changes soon. Jot down some ideas next to each item. This may help you calm your mind and feel a sense of peace. You may realize you can maybe do something about your life changes.
- Create an action plan with a timeline — starting with your smaller struggles. Plans may take the uncertainty out of your situation. This can reduce your stress levels and help you think more clearly about the road ahead.
- As you think about the changes you’re facing, deliberately include in your action plan any positives that may come as a result of the changes. Even when grieving the loss of a loved one, a relationship breakdown, or a job loss, you may be able to find some peace. Sometimes we may feel we can’t give ourselves permission to be happy about some of the beneficial outcomes a major life change might bring. However, finding the positives may help us move forward.
- As you complete your action plan for the smaller challenges you’ve been struggling with, ask yourself if they are as “bad” as you first thought — especially when compared to the life changes on your “major challenges” list. You may just be overwhelmed by the larger events happening in your life
I find that once I’ve used this process and been honest with myself, I realize that there are underlying issues causing me to feel overwhelmed when little things go haywire. I know I need to focus my energy on resolving the major issues in my life as soon as possible. I also remember I need to deal with the smaller issues now and reduce my stress levels. Once these are out of the way, I often have the emotional energy to address the more major stresses in my life.
Resolving the Major Issues
I’m not going to suggest resolving a major life changing issue is easy.
However, I do know pushing it constantly to the side is not helpful, and it can cause health symptoms to be more intense. Stress increases pain. When living with chronic disease, having a peaceful life can make life easier.
The process of listing your major life-changing events and jotting down ideas to begin to resolve them is a great starting point for ultimately managing the change process and relieving some stress.
It often puts you in the driver’s seat and begins to give you a sense of control — particularly in a situation that may make you feel powerless.
You may need assistance from others to help fully resolve your major challenges, but even acknowledging this and identifying who could help is a great starting point.
At the end of the day, if little things are feeling like huge changes, it’s likely because more major issues are at play.
Acknowledging this may help us “not sweat the small stuff” quite as much. Perspective is a wonderful tool to use when managing change.
How I’m Practicing My Own Advice
I’m going to take my own advice and acknowledge I’m deeply grieving the death of a loved one: my precious dad.
As a result, the last thing I feel like dealing with is a change to my ostomy product and finding a new podiatrist and a new cleaner.
However, in the big scheme of things, finding a new ostomy product and new people to help me is not a big deal, and I will find the right solution for my needs.
A new chapter of my life is beginning — life without my dad and with a new care team. I’m even starting a new online volunteer role with a church I have been following on YouTube. Change can be exciting when new ventures present themselves. I’m going to keep reminding myself “nothing lasts forever” to cope with the changes.
This isn’t entirely true, though. According to Saint Paul, there are three things that will last forever. These are three incredibly beautiful things to hold onto — no matter how much change bombards our lives.
“Three things will last forever: faith, hope, and love-and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13
I’ll always miss my dad, but I’m so grateful to have had him in my life. He showed me true love, and that will help me through all of the changes in my life.
Getty image by martin-dm.