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Creating New Dreams in Life With Chronic Illness

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“Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on. Growth itself demands that we move on. Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.” –Henry Cloud, “Necessary Endings”

I love this quote by Henry Cloud. Throughout my life, I have always looked forward. I’ve always been thinking of ways to improve my personal life and professional life.

When I was working as an Executive Manager in a bank, we used to call it “continuous improvement.” Never resting on our laurels. Reminding ourselves we were only as good as our last achievement and today was a new day. A new opportunity to improve, to inspire, to embrace change.

Chronic Illness and Continuous Improvement

When we live with chronic illness, the concept of continuous improvement can seem almost ridiculous.

But is it?

Our lives, while significantly impacted by our diseases, don’t need to be completely dictated by them. We can make changes which will catapult us into a new future. We can see our new circumstances as a time of opportunity, rather than a time of retreat and despair.

We have to want to, though. I know and understand how tiredness, pain and disease symptoms, can be emotionally and physically debilitating. I also know this chronic illness debilitated state feels so much more oppressive if we allow it to become our entire world.

Sometimes depression takes hold so severely, you really are stuck and just cannot move forward. If this is your situation, please don’t try and cope alone. Seek professional help to ensure you can break free from the chains keeping you from seeing a way forward. A helpline, your counselor or psychologist, or even a close friend may be the helping hand you need to get unstuck.

So how can we move forward and become the person we were meant to be? You may have had dreams in the past and chronic illness has snatched them from you. It’s cruel and it hurts on every level, there is no denying it. However, holding onto those dreams, which are clearly now unrealistic, may be causing you to be stuck and unable to move on.

I think there is a solution.

We can choose to leave those unrealistic dreams behind in order to find new ones, especially if we want to move on with our lives.

Creating New Dreams and Moving On

When creating new dreams with chronic illness, one thing is for sure, it will take time and patience to create a realistic vision for our future. We have very real constraints which simply can’t be ignored.

The question is, can they be overcome?

So if I asked you, “what would you like to do for the rest of your life,” what would your answer be?

Write your answer on a piece of paper. Look at it for a while. Ponder on it. Think about the possibilities. Think about the challenges. Think about how it makes you feel. Are you scared, excited or both?

Do you have a sense of peace and feel this is right for you? When I arrive at this place of peace, I know I’m on the right track to embrace my new dream, to embrace change.

I’m sure the answer I wrote down to the question, “what would I like to do with the rest of my life?” will come as no surprise to my regular readers:

“To connect in a meaningful way with people living with chronic illness, in the hope my shared experiences can help someone else to live a little better with their disease.”

It’s both my dream and my vision statement. It’s also become my reality. Through blogging, writing, my FB forum and more recently my podcast, I am actually living my dream despite my disease.

I’ve had to let go of so many things to move forward with my chronic illness life. As a result, I’ve grown so much as a person. My understanding of the impacts of disease and disability on people with chronic illness was so shallow prior to becoming ill. I always cared and I thought I had genuine empathy, but it was never going to be on the level it is now.

My passion for leading, coaching and developing others was always my strength throughout my career. Back then, never in my wildest dreams, would I have thought this passion was going to be completely flipped on its head, in order to be able to redirect my entire focus, on a whole new chronic illness community.

While I wouldn’t wish chronic illness on anyone, I do believe we can gain deep life experiences as a result of it. Life needs to be lived, no matter our circumstances. I believe we all have skills and talents, some from our life pre chronic illness, and new skills acquired as a result of living with our disease. We can find ways to reinvent ourselves and as Henry Cloud says:

“Growth itself demands that we move on. Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.”

Don’t remain stuck. Break free. Move forward.

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Getty image by FCScafeine.

Originally published: September 30, 2020
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