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5 New Year's Resolutions I'm Setting Because of My Illnesses

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In past years, my New Year’s resolution would have been simple – get healthy and get back to achieving the goals I set for myself as quickly as possible. However, years of living with multiple chronic illnesses have taught me that healing is not linear. No matter how hard I work, wish, pray, meditate, or medicate, I seem to be stuck with these illnesses and conditions. This year I want to make the best of the chronic life, and embrace working through the challenges brought on by chronic illness, instead of around them.

So, Let’s get to it!

1. Be gentle with myself.

I’ve always put pressure on myself to be healthy. When I get sick, I feel like I am failing. This can be emotionally devastating considering that I am always ill to some degree. I want this year to be about acknowledging how hard I work to take care of my health. I also want to blame myself less when I have a flare-up. It is easy to start thinking of all the choices I should or shouldn’t have made to safeguard my health after a flare-up.

I also tend to set goals for myself with specific time frames, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I want to be more flexible and forgiving of myself when my health prevents me from meeting those goals. I am not a failure because I cannot meet a goal in an allotted time. I need to learn to shake it off, set a new goal, and try again without losing any love for myself. I am not going to get any healthier or accomplish a task any faster because I’m hard on myself. Being hard on yourself isn’t objectively helpful.

This resolution is all about the frustration I feel in not being able to do daily tasks, from assignments at work or school, to chores around the house, and how I often blame myself for this inability. Feelings of failure and inadequacy are normal, but we can resolve this year to meet those thoughts and feelings head on.

Maybe you’ve noticed by now that in the new year, I want to work on pumping up my self-esteem a bit. With my first resolution, I’m focusing on my thoughts and attitudes about myself directly, but what about how I view myself in relation to others?

2. Stop comparing myself to others.

There will always be people who are prettier, smarter, healthier, faster, younger, or better at whatever matters most to you. I don’t think I compared myself to other people a great deal until I got very sick. Now everything seems like a race, and I have to know how far behind I am. I am especially worried when I meet or hear of people with chronic illnesses who are doing, in my opinion, much better than I am.

I suppose in my mind it seems like evidence for the argument that I am making it all up in my mind, or a liar, or just faking it, and that makes me almost panicky. Even after all these years there is still a tiny secret part of me that is terrified that those doctors in the beginning were right and I am just looking for attention, or maybe I did just make all of this up. I know it’s not true, but when I see people with the same condition who are able to do so much more than I am right now, I start to doubt myself.

I want to remember this year, that no one is the same. I am doing what I need to right now for my body. I may be in a remission, relapse, or recovery, and I don’t know where anyone else is either. Whatever phase I’m in and whatever my current ability, I want to enjoy my life as much as possible, doing whatever I am able at that moment. I will be proud of what I can do and I refuse to be ashamed of what I cannot do. This is my life, and it will never look like anyone else’s – but that’s OK!

3. Make gratitude a priority.

Sometimes, it is easy to forget all the things in life I’m grateful for. I can get so wrapped up in what’s difficult, not fair, or physically taxing. This year I want to make sure that I make time everyday to practice gratitude. Mentally reviewing what I am grateful for puts life into perspective and is a wonderful reminder of how happy I am.

Not only does this mental practice make me feel happy and loved, but studies have shown that it can be good for your health as well. Most importantly, chronic illness can lead down a path of can’ts:

“I can’t do that, I’ll get sick.”

“I can’t do that anymore. I used to do that all the time, but I haven’t been able to since I got sick.”

“I can’t go, I’m sick.”

But, when you practice gratitude, you focus on what you have and not what you’ve lost. The can’ts are what you’ve lost because of chronic illness, and most of us find ourselves having to say them a fair amount. Only having this negative side of the chronic life without gratitude to balance it out can be an emotional strain.

If you haven’t caught on yet, happiness is also a major goal of these New Year’s resolutions. That’s why in addition to gratitude, I am adding resolution number four.

4. Create more joy.

I don’t think I laugh enough. I challenge you to think about that too. I know it can be super hard, especially on those days when you’re in a lot of pain and you just need to get through it. But, I want to thoroughly enjoy my life, chronic illness or not. I need to find a way this year to add joy to my life everyday – even on the very fatiguing and very painful ones. If I can do this, then I will always be happy no matter what is happening to and around me. I just want to live my best life like everyone else.

Part of living your best life is challenging yourself, and trying new things.

5. Do something scary everyday.

Sometimes I think chronic illness has made me fearless and other times I think it has made me afraid of everything. Some days I am afraid to shower because I don’t know how much energy I will have leftover when I’m finished. Other days I shower automatically like most healthy people, and my fears are much fewer. On the sicker days I fear the consequences of every task, and on the healthy days, I have more mainstream fears, like a job interview.

In the new year, I resolve to take on my fears. I don’t want to push myself too far on my sick days, but I think I can pick tasks with the right amount of challenge. For example, when I am sick I tend to avoid my emails. I have a fear that either I won’t be able to handle whatever is in the emails because I don’t feel well, or that someone will email me calling me a faker and saying I’m not really sick. I’m not sure why I have those fears, but I’ve had them for a long time, and they make it hard to accomplish tasks when I am not well, as I tend to avoid my emails. So, this year I want to take on that scary task. Answering my emails is something that is scary to me that can be accomplished on a day I don’t feel well without exhausting me.

I want to prove to myself this year what I am capable of. Defeating some of my fears, or doing things that make me uncomfortable will boost my confidence and self-esteem. Creating joy, and prioritizing gratitude will go along way to making the new year a happier one. And, being gentle with myself as well as remembering not to compare myself to others, will hopefully improve my self-image. Here’s to the best new year we can manage, I hope it’s one of self-growth and discovery.

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Gettyimage by: Mina3686

Originally published: December 21, 2017
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