The Mighty Logo

How Illness Is Teaching Me to Slow Down and Live in the Moment

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

One major thing I’ve learned this year is to give myself grace: to slow down, truly enjoy all of life’s triumphs and challenges and soak in all experiences around me. In this process, I’ve definitely made some mistakes, felt a little misguided by my own thoughts and “wants” and felt taken advantage of a time or two.

However, I’ve also learned that making mistakes is truly OK. In order to grow, we must learn by design. Whether our design or purpose has been pre-approved or not, it is truly important that we are fulfilling those “things” we feel we need to fulfill.

I have a history of always doing too much. As a child, I was constantly playing and working creatively. There was rarely a time when I would just sit and watch a movie or relax and read a book. I was always active, running from one activity to the next, and barely taking any time to soak in what I was experiencing. In my teenage years, I involved myself in multiple clubs, became active on multiple sports teams and found additional side activities to occupy my time. I rarely spent any time at home outside of sleeping at night and always had one if not two or three activities to complete after school hours each day. From practices to meetings and games to performances, I always was doing something. And again, I barely ever took the time to soak in my experiences.

When you ask me about my memories of those very busy childhood and teenage years, I don’t have many. I truly only have memories of times I captured through photograph or video. I’ve always been a photographic and visual learner; even when studying for tests, I would memorize information on pages right before tests to help me perform better as my knowledge was assessed. Nowadays, it feels like my brain has a hard time connecting to ideas and moments. I pretty much have to write everything down or it is usually forgotten. Just ask my husband how many times I’ve repeated myself or forgotten something of importance because he didn’t text to remind me or I didn’t write it down. This is very frustrating for me.

Whether my lack of memory is due to conditions of fibro fog, autoimmune symptoms or a lack of focus isn’t really the point. The point is, I feel that in learning to be busy all the time, my brain also learned how to ignore what is happening in the present. Instead of focusing on what is happening right in front of me, my brain has learned how to multitask, think ahead and plan everything. Even though these can be seen as very positive qualities in some, I feel like, over time, I’ve learned how not to remember. I’ve learned how not to be truly present in today.

So, in my journey to learn more about myself and reflect on how this year has gone, I’ve also learned I must give myself grace. I am not like many others and should not be trying to mold myself into the same mold as everyone else. I’ve learned I must accept myself instead of trying to “keep up” or “change” into what society would like me to be. I need to slow down, take more time to better understand what is going on in life “in the moment” and learn how to stop trying to do multiple things at once. I need to learn how to simplify life.

In doing so, I feel life will only become easier. I’ve noticed that the more I think and reflect on my experiences and better understand my true self, the better I understand how to capture triumphs and conquer challenges. I’ve learned different strategies I can implement and what my body and mind need on a daily basis to be the best version of me I can be. Everyone always talks about goals and dreams and how they wish to change certain aspects of their lives, but with a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease or chronic condition, these goals and dreams can change. Your perspective on life changes and you learn to give yourself grace: to slow down and enjoy the simplest things in life because frankly, even on your best days, sometimes that’s all your body can take.

Give yourself grace. Allow imperfection. And remember to always live in the moment. Those memories are the driving force to see you through your worst of days.

Follow this journey on One Autoimmune Journey.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: January 19, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home