The Mighty Logo

When Life Gives You Lemons – and a Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“When life gives you lemons, wallow in self-pity and become sour.”

OK, I might not be remembering that proverb quite right.

In a whirlwind of emotion today I have been accepted and enrolled into an access to higher education course at college, felt completely overwhelmed and realized I couldn’t realistically do it. I then had a minor break down over how many freaking lemons I possess and decided on the part-time version of the course instead. It’s been a long day.

On the one hand, I’m very excited to start a course in September. I’ll have a vague direction to head in, I’ll meet new people and I’ll have something to do in between doctors appointments. On the other hand, I have to commit to being somewhere on time, use my brain for actual school work and find the energy to get to college. Three things I’m not the best at right now.

My minor break down earlier was in part due to the fact that in spite of all my hard work and stress during school, I still can’t keep pace with my peers. I realize that my peers are all now at wildly different stages of life, but my subconscious believes that all 20-year-olds are feeling fulfilled in university or work. I know logically that whether I take one or two years to complete this course, it will have little bearing on my future, but right now accepting that I can’t take on a full-time course is hard. It’s scary to admit to yourself that you honestly don’t know if you’ll ever be able to work or study full-time. No one can give me a timeline for recovery or even tell me that it will definitely happen. By doing the course part-time I’m giving myself a better chance of recovery, more time to chase potential health treatments and more energy to enjoy time with friends. I don’t think I ever really had the choice to do it full-time, it’s just not an option with my health how it is.

It’s hard when life doesn’t stick to the script you’ve given it. (I’m looking at you lemons.) It can be frustrating, it can make things feel hopeless or make you feel like it’s not worth working for what you want – as it never seems to come through anyway. I often find that I need to be reminded of a couple of things. Firstly, I have to remember that my circumstances are what they are, everyone has limits and these are mine. There isn’t a single human being who doesn’t have some sort of constraint of their lives. Be it money, time, love, energy or motivation, no one can achieve exactly what they want, when they want to. That’s just not how life works. Not unfortunately, not sadly – just realistically.

None of my issues have emerged because I was bad or made wrong decisions. My circumstances are just the sum of my experiences, some of which were good, some bad. I don’t have anything to prove by achieving everything I want in a set time limit, I just have to enjoy life and be happy. And, I don’t even have to do that. The wonderful thing about life is that there is no set path, the limit is our own imagination and resourcefulness. We all just need to slow down and smell the lemons. (Another proverb I might have wrong.)

I’m glad that I’m unable to do the full-time course. It will widen my view to include more time with friends, family and my lovely dog. It also means I can spend as much time as I need on fixing as many of my health issues as I can. It’ll be a bit of a “do it yourself” job, but in two years time I hope I’ll be further down the road of recovery, treatment and fulfillment.

Getty Image by goodmoments

This story originally appeared on Chronically Ellie.

Originally published: July 6, 2018
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