Everybody has a game plan for their life. Some people plan to go to college and get a degree. Some are adamant they will carry on the family business. As a child, you may remember thinking you wanted to be an astronaut or a ballerina. For me, I have always had big goals for my life. I was certain that I would go to college, finish with honors, and become a teacher. I had not considered that sometimes goals cannot become reality.
After graduating high school, I was starting college and working full time in a local factory. I could work all day, and still have plenty of energy to spend time with friends and go out. My friends and I would go out hiking on the weekends, and drive around for the fun of it. I was still on track for my dream of being a teacher, and felt like nothing could stop me.
When Everything Goes Wrong
After a few months of feeling great and doing essentially everything I wanted to do, I started to develop some non-specific symptoms. I had a headache and was tired all the time. My doctors were determined to figure out what was wrong. I made every life change possible, tried each medication that was suggested, and underwent countless tests. Meanwhile, the pain was increasing and I was so exhausted I could hardly get out of bed in the morning.
Now, several years later, I am still in pain daily. I have a laundry list of diagnoses and still no clear reason for what is causing my chronic illness. Whereas I was once able to go anywhere and do whatever I wanted, now I am limited. I can no longer drive, and have to plan every day around my pain levels. I cannot go out and work a regular 9-5 position as I would like to do. There have been many times when thinking about everything that I’ve lost, that my mental health suffered and I wasn’t sure where to go next. So, what do you do when your life goals change?
Ways to Cope
### There are a few ways I have learned to deal with my chronic illness and mental health struggles throughout the years. First, look for what you can still do. While I was not able to finish college and become a teacher, I am still able to share my knowledge with others and teach through my platform. I can support my community and volunteer. I am able to make money and support my family.
Second, focus on your strengths. I have the ability to write. I have an innate ability to look at words and piece them together in a unique way. Proofreading and finding errors comes naturally to me as well. I thrive on listening to others in order to figure out their needs and how best to support them.
Third, focus on caring for yourself. While the mention of self care normally brings images of face masks, painting nails, and hot bubble baths, it encompasses so much more than that. You can support yourself by saying no when your pain levels are too high. You can keep a bottle with you and drink water so you stay hydrated. Sometimes, the best self care can be taking a nap and trying again tomorrow.
The last way I deal with my life goals changing is through leaning on my friends and family. Everyone needs a support system, a group of people you can go to when life gets hard and everything feels like too much. You can be the toughest person in the world, feel invincible, and yet still need your people. They will listen to your struggles, empathize, and help you plan for the future. In return, you can support them in the same way. The empowerment this gives is unmatched.
Though life goals can change and frequently do, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. By accepting your limitations, and making adjustments for your health, you can survive and even thrive. When times are tough, slow down and focus on how you can best care for yourself. Look at what you can still do, and do it to the best of your ability. Lastly, lean on your friends and family. Together, you can get through anything.
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