It is so easy to get stuck focusing on the bad things in life and focus solely on how things haven’t turned out the way you had in mind. It’s easy to list off the things you have missed out on or didn’t get to do because you got sick.It’s easy to get caught up in all the negative things that come with being chronically ill. But have you ever really thought about the positive things that have happened because of your illness?The opportunities you have gotten because of your illness? The relationships you’ve built because of your illness!? Right about now you are probably thinking I have totally and completely lost my mind. You are probably wondering what has gotten into me. But I am serious, let’s try and think positive.
I know how easy it is to be a negative Nancy after living with a chronic illness for a long time. It’s easy to look back and play the what-if game. What if I hadn’t gotten gotten sick, would I......... be married, have kids, be in a different job, own my own home? It is easy to focus on the jobs you lost, the promotions you didn’t get, the goals you feel like you will never reach, or the relationships that have failed. But as my Dad has told me so many times over my lifetime, “you could what if yourself to death.”. You can always sit and contemplate where you would have gone or where you might be. But honestly, it does you no good. It doesn't change your current situation. It can't change the past. And as cliche as it may sound you can only worry about the present and the future because you can't change the past.
I do believe that there is a process of mourning or grieving that we all must through when we get a life changing diagnosis. I think that is healthy. We have to grieve the life we had and even the dreams we had that are no longer feasible. And we go through all the stages of grieving at different times. At first we may be in denial, thibking that the doctors are wrong and we will just wake up healthy tomorrow. Then comes the anger for why this happened to us, and questioning what did we do to deserve this. We may try to bargain, thinking and praying that if we can just have ”X” that we will gladly do ”Y.” It may not help in the long run but it makes you feel better at the time. And it's okay to cycle through these stages and go back and forth. There is no wrong or right way to grieve, but it is essential to be able to move on with your life.
I know, you shouldn't ever change or let go of your dreams because you don't know what will happen. But we have to be sensible and honest with ourselves. When you have a chronic illness it does change things. And while one could argue that you never know what the future will hold, we do know what the future won't hold. Like for me I know that there are some things in my future that won’t happen. Like carrying my own child. I will hopefully have children through adoption or even bonus children. But my body will never be able to carry a baby. This was my lifelong dream and I have had to grieve that loss. There are times when I feel like I am okay with this and other times I am just downright sad and angry. For me grieving isn't negative, in fact it imperative in order to be able to move on.
While we all have struggles and have dealt with let downs and changes. It is essential that we find a way to see the positives intermixed with the negatives. It's easy to think that there could never be any positive in this life I'm living.And I get that. But if you really look at your life you can find some positives, you may just have to do some real reflection to find them, but they are tgere. For me, there are a LOT of negatives. For instance losing my career, having to drop out of my masters program, or losing my independence. But in the midst of all those things I have found some of my best friends, I have gained a better relationship with my family, and found a “job” I never would have found if all the bad things hadn’t happened.
Had I not gotten sick I wouldn’t have ever started my support group or started writing this blog. And even though I do mourn the life and relationships had prior to getting sick, I am also so thankful for the life and relationships I have now. While it may be the life I ever envisioned for myself I am so lucky to be alive, to have such amazing family support and to have such amazing people in my life. I am so grateful that I get to run a support group and write a blog that has a positive impact on other people and most of all I am grateful for the journey. I have truly found myself, who I am and who I hope to be. And I found that all because of my poor health. There is no way of knowing just who I would have been or where my life would have taken me had I not gotten sick. Even though I will probably never understand why these things happened I can say my life is better because of it.
I encourage all of you, no matter how long you have been ill, to take time and do some reflection. Look back and see if you have ever let yourself grieve the life you didn't get to have, and if you haven't let yourself grieve. Then I encourage you to dig deep and look for the positives in your life and find the things you can be thankful for.
I’d like to leave you with this, ”Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters the most.” -Buddha