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The 5 Ways I've Found Freedom With Being Chronically Ill

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A friend recently posted a question in her Facebook group, Freedom to Choose, about ways to gain freedom in life, so you can choose how you want to live it.

My response was one word: acceptance.

Of course I had to follow through with a short sentence, since I really can’t stop at one word.

Acceptance brings me peace and freedom.

After posting that response, I pondered about whether acceptance was just a state of resigning myself to living with the shackles of my chronic disease. Or was it more than that?

I feel it’s more. To me the word resignation had a defeatist air about it.

The “Cambridge Dictionary” defines “resignation” as “a sad feeling of accepting something that you do not like because you cannot easily change it.”

I don’t feel defeated. I feel alive. I feel blessed. I feel happy. I definitely feel at peace with my situation. I’m not resigned.

According to Wikipedia, “Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it.”

This is much closer to how I feel. My situation isn’t ideal. I’m not delusional about that reality. My life now is definitely a semblance of my former life, but I’m not fighting it. I’ve grieved the loss of the things I loved prior to chronic disease. That’s a healthy and necessary process to moving on to acceptance.

I’ve arrived at acceptance. I now embrace my new life. I don’t protest it.

It is a new life I can honestly say I love. I love it as much as I loved my old life.

I’m sure that might seem like a completely crazy and foreign concept to many people who know my physical constraints and my daily battle with pain — all of which have required me to embrace a basically reclusive life with my husband.

I love this quote from Michael J. Fox who understands too well how chronic disease impacts every area of life:

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and there’s got to be a way through it.”

So what does acceptance look like for me?

1)I look for ways to adapt to my disabilities. If I can’t do something I would really like to do, I set about strategizing to see if there is a way. If there isn’t, I move on. Let’s face it, even able-bodied, healthy people have things they’d like to do but can’t. That’s life. I used to work crazy hours with little free time, and never had time to do all the things I wanted to do at home. Now I do, and I love the freedom medical retirement gives me.

2)I don’t feel sorry for myself. When I was working we had a saying that we put on Post-it notes: “Choose your attitude.” We even went as far as asking each other what attitude we had brought into the office each morning. We’d encourage each other to choose a positive attitude. It was a bit of fun, but it lifted everyone’s spirits and created a great culture.

When I feel tired and pain is soaring, I absolutely get grumpy like everyone else. I could easily wallow in that state, but I quickly try to remind myself to “Choose my attitude.” Life is too short to be grumpy and I’ve learned it only makes pain worse.

3)I count my blessings. No matter how terrible my health gets, if I take a moment to stop and breathe, I can always find a blessing in my circumstances. My stair lift died again this week and there is never much “good” about that. It’s one of the worst case scenarios in my life, and a prospect I try not to think about.

Anyway, it happened, and I had to deal with it. The blessing that came from it was finding out that we were just within warranty to get it fixed. We also discovered I can have all future servicing paid through my new homecare package. Now, the real blessing here is that I wouldn’t have discovered this if the lift didn’t stop working. Within the next week, I’m going to be having my first meeting with my homecare package case manager. Future stair lift maintenance will now be at the top of my priority list to discuss at this first meeting. We can now ensure we allow enough package funding to cover this essential need.

This will be a key difference between us staying in our own home or having to sell up and move to a low set. I don’t want to move. I don’t feel physically ready to move, so my stair lift breaking down was literally a blessing in disguise. I am now equipped and educated to utilize my package correctly. This will result in safeguarding our future in our home, until we choose to move.

4)I live in the moment. One of the greatest gifts my rare disease has given me is to take one step at a time, one moment at a time. I appreciate so much more now. I always loved nature and weather and food. Now I savor every detail of a flower blooming, the seasons changing, the sun setting, the smell of fresh coffee beans, the lingering taste of favorite meal. I love watching the tides come in and go out, and listening to birds chirping — the variety of those chirps is so beautiful.

5)I love the freedom my new life offers. No more agendas. No more time frames and deadlines unless I choose to make one. No more alarms going off in the morning unless I want to get up at a certain time. I can eat meals when I like. I can watch a favorite TV show while having lunch which can roll into afternoon tea. I can read, listen to music, pray and reflect when I like. I can write when I feel inspired.

I’m not resigned to my life with chronic disease. I’ve accepted and embraced it for the reasons above and many more besides.

I believe my disease could be a bondage if I let it, but I haven’t. I’ve chosen not to let it.

I’ve had courage to make radical changes to things within my control. I’ve recognized that seeking a peaceful life, not fighting against things that can’t be changed, brings the serenity needed to accept new circumstances.

I often say, “It is what it is.” I choose to live as well as possible with my disease. It’s not who I am, but it is a part of who I am. It doesn’t define me, but it does refine me.

Acceptance has brought freedom. It’s also brought peace and joy. It’s brought serenity.

The “Serenity Prayer:” “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

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Getty Images photoa via NataliaDeriabina

Originally published: February 8, 2018
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