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The Perspective That Helps Me Cope With the Limitations of My Illness

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Every human is thrown obstacles and opportunities every day. How we handle them determines who we are.

Our race, gender, disability, illness and situation are simply context – they are what we are. How we choose to face things every day, every moment is who we are.

Nothing tests this like illness, tragedy and great challenge.

I spent years negotiating with and denying my illness.

Many find that loved ones deny the diagnosis. Not because they don’t believe you, but often because they don’t want it to be true.

With the support of my husband, I discovered a life-changing perspective:

It’s not about what you can’t do; it’s about what you can do.

This began when it became clear I could no longer go outside. I have environmental illness/multiple chemical sensitivity. Meaning, a whiff of cigarette smoke, car exhaust, perfume, cleaning products, etc. is capable of completely incapacitating me.

So, my husband and I made up a song:

“If you can’t go outside, you gotta make inside fun!
If you can’t go outside, you gotta make inside fun!
Can you go outside? No!
Can you stay inside? Yes!
If you can’t go outside, you gotta make inside fun!”

This concept is huge and essential. I’m not great at it, but I’m learning.

I am on an extremely regimented diet (check out a diversified rotary diet!) I was bummed by the copious items I could no longer eat. But you know what? It’s not about what I can’t eat, it’s about getting creative with what I can eat.

Sometimes we’ll pretend my life is a film production. Suddenly we get the call our budget, locations, timeframe and actors have all been cut. How do we get creative and make do with what we have?

Of course, I have a long, long, long way to go to becoming the person I want to be. I’m not always positive and resourceful. I don’t think it’s possible to be.

I have bouts of denial, anger, depression and lamenting my illness.

You must feel those feelings.

You must scream, cry, vent, do whatever you need to do to accept, express and release those feelings.

Just like environmental toxins build up in our bodies, emotions can fester inside and poison you. If you ignore the negative feelings and only focus on the positive ones every day, you are fooling yourself.

So…you cry, silently scream into your pillow, pound your fists and get out every bit you can.


When you can, you pick yourself up, look in the mirror and ask:

“OK. Now. What can I do to help me heal?”

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Thinkstock photo via Zoran Zeremski.

Originally published: April 3, 2017
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