The Secret of Chronic Illness

21 Nov
Copyright Jamie Weisman.

Copyright Jamie Weisman.

My sister sent me this quote a few months ago as she thought it was apt for me and what I’ve been through in recent years. I related to it the instant I read it. This is exactly what it’s like. It was comforting to read someone else’s words express so succinctly what, until that moment, I hadn’t quite been able to put my finger on.

Before I was ill, I ‘catastrophised’ and worried about EVERYTHING. With hindsight I can see that fear played a pretty large role in my life. If someone had told me 5 years ago that my life was going to be turned upside down by a chronic illness I would have been terrified. If I had been told that I would end up having to stop work and give up my career and wind up living back with my parents, away from my boyfriend and friends, too ill to go out other than for a short walk or in a wheelchair, too ill to wash and dry my own hair or to listen to the radio or cook or do any of the other things I love, I would have been petrified.

But somehow when all of these, horrible and unwanted, things did happen, I survived. I fought and, touch wood, I have managed to claw myself out the other side. If someone had told me that I would manage, for the most part, to live through all of this, with a smile and a positive attitude, I would have laughed in their face! Having a chronic illness has made me much more positive. That’s not to say I no longer worry, I still do. But it’s less catastrophic! I guess once the worst has happened – losing control of your health – you have no reason not to be positive. You’ve hit rock bottom. The only way is up.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t scared. I was. I was absolutely terrified. At the beginning I was bewildered and so very very scared. I had no idea what was wrong with me. My parents didn’t know. My Doctor didn’t know. And the unknown is utterly terrifying. As time passed I was so frightened that I was never going to get better. And as I did make baby steps of progress, the fear, that I would go backwards and get even sicker, grew stronger. But I learnt to balance the fear with the need to keep on living. I channeled myΒ energy, what little I had, into living.

Amazingly, I managed to keep smiling. And despite my life being so different to where I thought I would be age 30 (high flying corporate lawyer living a busy London life), I am now, oddly, grateful for my illness. I am a very different person, a better person I would say, because of the enforced pause my life has taken due to my chronic illness. That is not to say that I don’t miss my old life and the old me. I do. Or rather I did.

All those sayings are true: ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’, ‘learn to dance in the rain’, ‘I’m not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship’. This is not a rose tinted glasses moment. Clinging onto a positive outlook, and listening to empowering quotes such as these, helped save me.

In the quote above, Jamie Weisman says it exactly right. You learn to live with the fear. When the worst happens you do adapt and you do carry on with life. You have to, otherwise you’ve let your illness win. And that was something I was very determined never, ever, to let happen. You do compromise and you do have to accept losses. You have to grieve for the life you used to have. But ultimately you keep on living.

No person’s personality and situation is exactly the same as another’s, and so it follows that each person’s experience of chronic ill health isΒ different. There is no one size fits all. That’s what makes recovery so challenging.

But if you can manage to let in a little of the secret, your struggle will become ever so slightly easier. No one’s saying it’ll be easy. But, as someone who has been there, trust me, it’s very worth it.

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6 Responses to “The Secret of Chronic Illness”

  1. thehomeschoolingdoctor November 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    All good words. Hers and yours. For people with chronic disease, it must feel so strange to look back. Almost like it could incapacitate you if you did it too much when you’re in the thick of illness. At the time, do past memories bring joy or simply frustration? Or is it different at different phases through the illness?

    • myjourneythrume November 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

      Oh my gosh, are you actually inside my mind?! You’ve just articulated a whole load of questions that have been swirling around my brain for a while now! I definitely feared for most of this year that looking back or engaging with things to do with my illness could send me backwards mentally or physically (hence the absence from blogging). It’s weird, the stronger I get and further forward I move health wise, the more emotional I am when I look back. It’s almost that only now can I see just how bad things were for so long. Past memories definitely brought me frustration and sadness when I was ill and I think I ended up so wrapped up in trying to move forward I stopped looking back. It was less painful that way somehow. I have been planning a post on these kinds of questions. Watch this space!

  2. BONNIE JOHNSON November 22, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    LOVED THE QUOTE. AT 70 & AFTER 13 YRS OF BEING SICK, I ONLY SEEM TO BE GETTING WORSE & I’M SO VERY SICK OF BEING SICK!

    • myjourneythrume November 27, 2014 at 8:13 am #

      Thank you Bonnie πŸ™‚ I wish there was a way out of the tunnel for you. Thinking of you. Jx

  3. Miss P November 25, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    A very empowering quote indeed.

    This is one of my favourite quotes:

    Just think, some of the best days of our life’s haven’t happened yet.

    x =) x

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