As most of you know in 2016 my life changed dramatically. To learn about my story click here. When everything first happened it was hard for me to see any positive. But as time has marched on I can definitely pick out 6 major things that I have learned from my chronic illness.
1. It’s ok to Say No
Saying no to people has always been hard for me. Im a people pleaser at heart and that is a hard habit to break. But since my diagnosis and surgery I have started to say no. Now Im not saying that I say no to everything cause that would be no fun. What I am saying is that when Im tired or in pain and friends or family ask me to do something I give myself permission to say no.
Saying no is still very hard for me. I feel like I am letting people down or making them upset. But in the end I am the one who has to live with the fatigue and pain, not them. That knowledge puts my mind at ease, and makes it slightly to decided when to say no. Saying no has made a huge difference in my quality of life.
2. To Pacing Myself/Listen to my Body
This goes along with saying no in a way. As mentioned above I get way more tired and painful since my diagnosis and surgery. When I am out and about, I at times, have to take breaks. This is not always convenient or fun. But I have learned that if I ignore my body and push through I end up feeling awful or in some cases end up passing out.
This is not limited to going out. I have to pace myself at home as well. You see I love a clean house and in the past I would deep clean my entire house in a day. Recently I have tried to clean the entire house in one day and the results have been not good. I usually end up having to take a day or two to recover. So now I take it slow and if I only get one thing done that’s ok.
3. Accept Help
This one is especially hard for me but has been key in my recovery. After my surgery my family and friend all came to my aide. During my month long stay in the hospital I was so thankful for everyone’s help. They took amazing care of my family when I couldn’t.
When I got out it was a different story I felt so bad for all the help. I knew I needed the help but it was a hard pill to swallow. In time I realized that all these people in my life wanted to help, I wasnt a burden to them. Its just like how I enjoy helping my friends and family when they are in need.
Now that I am a few years out I still have people offer to help me with stuff and while it still makes me feel a little awkward I try to accept the help. My husband has picked up a lot of slack for me over the past 2 years. I use to feel horrible about this but I let go of the guilt and now see it as a way he shows me that he loves me. In fact this whole ordeal has really shown me how much my family and friends care for me and my family.
4. Tell People How I Really Feel
This is a big one. I have always downplayed my health issues and still do to an extent. I don’t like people to feel bad for me or to worry. But on the flip side of that if you don’t tell people how you are really feeling they don’t know and cant help if needed, going back to #3.
I know if I find out a friend of mine has been going through a hard time, either physically, mentally, or emotionally, I feel bad that I didn’t know. Why do I feel bad, its because I want to help them or just be there for them. I have had people tell me they feel this way about me.
To clarify, I do not talk about all my issues all the time. I still downplay a lot of stuff. But when I have someone ask me how im doing and I know they are sincere I tell them. It makes them happy and it helps me by getting it out there.
5. Focus on The Positive
Focusing on the positive is easier said than done, but having a positive attitude is half of the healing process. If you think everything is doom and gloom your probably not going to start feeling better. When I worked in the medical field I would tell that to my patients, so after my health issues started it was time for me to practice what I preached.
In everyone’s life it is so easy to have something bad happen and then to dwell on it and have that one thing ruin you day, week, month, etc. I have always had a pretty upbeat personality but after everything happened I found myself in a downward spiral. Which is nothing to be ashamed its natural to feel sad about loss, for me it was the loss of my “normal” life.
I started being more conscious of my thoughts and if they started to get negative I would switch my mind set. If that didn’t work I would talk to my husband, mom, or trusted friend. I also started a positivity journal, that I write in every night. It only contains the good from each day. So when Im feeling gloomy I can look back and see all the good that I have in my life. To learn more about positivity journals click here.
6. Enjoy The Little Things
Right after my surgery, when i wasn’t able to walk, I was focused on all the big things in life I might not be able to do. Then one day while I was in the hospital Michael came to visit me and we laid on my bed and watched a movie. It was the best night I had had in a long time. Thats when I realized I could still enjoy a full and happy life even with less “big” things.
I have had the opprutunity to spend the last 8 months at home with my kids. And while at times it can be frustrating, everyday is filled with happy little moments. For example unexpected kisses, a picture drawn just for me, cuddles on the couch, reading books together, and the list goes on.
I cherish every chill night at home with family and friends. My illness had made me realize that those small moments mean just as much if not more than the big ones. And I am happier now that I can see that.
Living with a chronic illness is hard, everyday is a new stuggle. But there has been good to come out of it. I hope that if you are struggling with a chronic illness, or any other hardship in life, you and gleam a few gems from my experience.