Colleen George

@gracefullyill | contributor
chronic illness blogger & writer /// hoping to spread a little extra light & joy // author of “gracefully ill: finding peace in the chaos of chronic illness” ☁️ (link below) thanks so much for stopping by!!!! ❤️ would love to connect on insta - @gracefully.ill https://linktr.ee/colleengeorgeee
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“Letting go is hard but holding on to something not meant for you is harder”. #chronic #Dysautonomia #MastCellActivationDisorder #Hope

“Letting go is hard but holding on to something not meant for you is harder”

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One of the very very tricky parts of having a chronic condition is the constant uncertainty. The only thing we can rely on with certainty is uncertainty - as perplexing as that is.

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The 2013 version of me, newly sick & grieving losses, one by one, was not even close to okay with this uncertainty. At that point, it felt like i didnt have “a future” - i couldnt count on anything, i couldnt do the things i had always planned to do, i lost my hobbies and the little everyday things that felt like they were given. the only thing in sight was a giant, daunting mountain, created by a combination of loss & medical woes.

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Though the losses are no easier now, in 2022, i do feel that (for the most part) uncertainty has become a little less upsetting & a little more “okay.”  

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Life has gone in a completely different direction than planned - in a different direction than the infinite number of directions i had planned out with messy pro & con lists. I used to be the indecisive decision making queen. Legitimately. And perhaps i lost my faith in my pro and con lists, because everything changed completely - and all the efforts didnt turn to anything in the end. And when i continued to plan my future, i just became stressed - because i didnt know what my body was going to be okay with.

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I still have hopes and goals and dreams, illness can’t take that away, but they are a little bit more vague and i’m a little bit less attached to them. And i think that’s okay. Because if they dont work out, new ones will come into the picture that do. I have to move forward with my body - not so far ahead of it. And maybe ill just stumble upon something that i never expected, because i’m letting go of all of the attachment. And maybe this feels a little bit good? A little bit reassuring? It’s not letting go of the reins, it’s adjusting them, to allow for your hopes and dreams to show up in different ways.

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And at this very moment, i have no idea what is next. But this doesnt scare me so much, because im still here, just figuring out a path as i go. And one little gift this has given me is to be able to live in the present, and to worry less about some of the things that once gave me a lot of anxiety.

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So if youre living in this little moment of uncertainty (or month or year or decade of uncertainty), know that you never have to have an exact path. You can, if it brings you peace and helps you move through life. But you don’t always need to follow a plan to be happy or to be content. So long as you keep the hope and realize that there’s probably (definitely) still a lot of beauty up ahead.

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⛈⛅️💙

<p>⛈⛅️💙</p>
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You are not behind - you are on your own path.

<p>You are not behind - you are on your own path.</p>
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✨☁️Sickness doesn’t steal your light ☁️✨

<p>✨☁️Sickness doesn’t steal your light ☁️✨</p>
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Colleen George

Redefining a Meaningful Life With Chronic Illness

Before I became sick, I viewed accomplishing goals and meeting high expectations as requirements for creating a meaningful life. When I fell short of my expectations, I often felt like I had failed. This was anything from getting good grades, to being more social (and less reserved), to running x number of miles on the treadmill or not making mistakes in flute competitions. When I didn’t earn the grade I wanted or when I fell short of any of my expectations, I immediately saw myself as a failure. But I never gave myself a pat on the back for the effort I put into things — I was doing the best I could. I never credited myself for the smaller, more meaningful little accomplishments and moments of joy. I think I ignored the peaks and accentuated the valleys. My chronic illness has encouraged me to re-evaluate my relationship with the meaning of expectations and goals, such that my perception of what is actually important in life has shifted. I have had to learn that reaching or accomplishing “big” goals or successes is not what makes me a valuable person. Because my old goals are no longer attainable, continuing to judge myself based on them would only hurt my view of myself. Something that has been harder for me to accept is not being able to do the “smaller” things on my to-do list — the constant need for flexibility every single day. I am still working on not feeling frustrated when I can’t just do my laundry, or when writing a blog post takes me all day instead of an hour because my mind is so foggy. Accepting that our bodies call the shots at the end of the day is a hard pill to swallow — but I’m working on it. When my last two graduate school classes started, I was reminded yet again that no matter what I do, I don’t actually have control over my body. Yet, rather than being gentle and taking actions that were in line with self-care, I still fought the realization and tried to live up to expectations that were not in the realm of what I could physically do each day. During a bad flare several months back, I recall waking up early each morning with the intention of getting a “good” start on my assignments. But (unsurprisingly), I woke up with headaches, brain fog, fatigue, and a racing heart, day after day. Deep down, I knew that these would not be days in which I would have nearly enough mental or physical stamina to do school work. Yet, I (of course) still put too much pressure on myself to at least just try as I wanted to get it done. This only led to a great deal of anxiety because I unsurprisingly couldn’t do the schoolwork. Despite how long I sat, tapping my foot at my desk and just willing myself to focus, I couldn’t. And there was nothing I could have done to have changed this dilemma. I couldn’t flick a magic wand and be granted mental clarity or a slower heartbeat. Some days the “shoulds” still get the best of me and I try to push myself to do unrealistic things rather than resting or doing whatever my body and mind need for comfort. While that day could have been a much gentler day if I had listened to my body’s needs, I simultaneously realize that blaming myself for wasting time (by just sitting there not working) was also not beneficial for my mental health. Instead, I tried to allow that day to be a reminder of the importance of practicing forgiveness and giving myself grace, particularly on the harder days. This also served as a reminder of the importance of “surrendering,” which I view to mean accepting, rather than giving up. Surrendering to my body’s needs and taking care of my body (and soul) is always the most compassionate thing I can do. Little by little, I’m starting to see that productivity doesn’t make my life any more or less valuable. What makes this life meaningful is the joy and compassion I find in special moments and meaningful connections. It’s about the relationships with people who make me feel good, and who allow me to be myself around them. It’s about the hobbies that I love to do, and not at all about reaching “perfection” in these hobbies. It’s about creating expectations that are centered around fulfillment instead of solely based on big accomplishments or the need to be better. I guess I’m softening my own beliefs to the understanding that a meaningful life is a life centered around finding peace and fulfillment, and not productivity. My goal is now to seek happiness (or “OK-ness,” if this is more attainable). In small steps, I am realizing that it is perfectly OK to soften my expectations and to work on making choices that make me feel good and whole — choices that allow me to care for and love both myself and others. Ultimately, a life focused on finding peace and gently taking care of ourselves can be even more beautiful and meaningful than a life focused on external achievements. This is an excerpt from my book: “Gracefully Ill: Finding Peace in the Chaos of Chronic Illness.”

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hope & grace

<p>hope & grace</p>
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