Friday, 14 August 2015

Life on pause in chronic illness / disability. Will the stuck feeling always be here ?

One of the first blog posts I wrote on a similar topic to the below, was back in 2013. 'The stuck feeling' was a post I completed in under an hour. Ironic considering the topic name. The words came pouring out, I didn't seem to take a pause in expressing how I felt. Stuck is a word that often still comes into play daily in my current situation with disability and illness. It's a horrible, smothering feeling that you just desperately want to escape and run from. Feeling stuck becomes the blatant reality check of just how much life changes when you live with illness or disability.

Even in 2015, it's still a feeling that can overwhelm and shock me, as it has for many years now. Hope has been restored in the sense that I now know that lots of others in similar circumstances, often feel it too. Something I had no confirmation of, up until early 2014. This fact in itself has done me a lot of good and I try to remember this when difficult to think of the progression in the many different aspects of life. The stuck and trapped mentality rears its ugly head without warning, but especially when in an incredibly bad flare up. Living this life can make you feel like you are a car stuck in the mud or sinking in quicksand.

Like so many other people with chronic illness and disability, I find it hard to maintain a dependence on large amounts of positivity within my daily life. I understand that this 'stuck' feeling becomes a valid aspect in a continuous progression towards accepting and building upon my disabled reality. Low moments in my week or month tend to slightly positively push me in different ways, when I didn't think it was entirely possible, so in theory they becomes my silver lining. However, there are also a lot of incredibly difficult times where feeling stuck in my tracks often feels like it is taking over my life. I notice that my body seems to feel paralysed, my breathing shallow, my soul numb, my mood incredibly emotional and my movement weak in these despair moments, a huge reality check and emphasis on the 'stuck' feeling.

There is never a certain time period or obvious pattern that will pass and cause my stuck feeling to amplify. Sometimes it's how I feel in my day to day achievements, sometimes my hourly achievements and sometimes it just falls down to how I feel in myself and my disability. This surge of feeling rears it's ugly head in the moments where you want to think of your future, your present and sometimes even your past. Just feeling like you are stuck on a treadmill, at the same pace, living with same life because of chronic illness is something I have always found very difficult to process.

Many different people, from many walks of life, can feel stuck. Stuck in jobs they hate, stuck within their private lives, relationships, stuck in circumstances they wish they had the power to change or make better. All these kind of feelings and categories in which they appear in our lives are valid. They make us feel more than rubbish, drag us down and force us to see them in only a negative light. However, in chronic illness it's not just one particular aspect of life that you feel stuck in. It's an avalanche of aspects and sectors within your life that you have no idea how to move forward with. The reason being because chronic illness, pain and disability can cause attributes within your circumstance, that have the ability to consume your present. These factors seem to get in the way of and block your progression path a lot of the time, both physically and mentally, no matter how much you attempt to remain optimistic and positive.

The phrase I refer to a lot is 'life on pause'. Technically, nobody's life is truly on pause, unfortunately the human race does not have access to the nifty little gadget that features in the movie 'Click' just yet. I use this phrase in the sense that life, days, months and years can shockingly pass you by in chronic illness and disability. You can't physically leave behind or build steady blocks upon the one thing that drags you down everyday of your existence, pain. You feel trapped and controlled in so many aspects of your life caused by this powerful gremlin. The most common avenue everyone wants to take when they feel stuck is to try and change why they feel this way, which is irrelevant when it comes to a life with pain.

When you become housebound with a disability, your life seems to lack much structure. This forces you to imagine and think about what life could be like if health and physical abilities were on our side. It is cruel to do this to ourselves when we have an illness or disability, but we do it anyway. Only because we want better for ourselves, our present and our futures. There isn't harm in wanting to be a better person, feel happy and content in your circumstances. However, when you know the circumstances are not particularly 'normal', there has to be a line drawn where you need to stop being so hard on yourself. This is when being chronically ill and disabled makes you rely in large amounts on any ounce of positivity you can find within your circumstance, and most importantly a hell of a lot of patience.

No matter how positive you may want to think about your situation, when the sheer reality hits you that you have lived this life for so long, it becomes pretty hard to shake the feelings of how your current situation is making you feel. You feel as if you can't escape this lifestyle and convince yourself to an extent that you are certain it will become just like all the other years that have passed by. Will I always feel this trapped, stuck and depressed by my reality? Will I be able to grow in the ways I wish too? Illness and disability can cause you to think irrationally and have low expectations of yourself. You feel numb, distressed, depressed, trapped, unhappy and emotional when dealing with these prospects in life.   

When progression seems to slack in your life you feel like you are stuck deep in a hole with the walls collapsing inwards on you. You feel stuck in more ways that one. There are many different circumstances in life with illness and disability, where I feel this way. Sometimes, they are easier to get through and other times, I am faced with new, unsuspecting challenges. Categories stem from feeling stuck from physical contact with others, where life is headed, what I would like to be achieving, anger at my current physical abilities, lack of progression, age-realisation, deteriorating health, hospital appointments and more. Stuck feelings can arise from how much I physically hope to gain from life, but not knowing if it will ever be entirely possible because of my disability and health issues. It also is a case of wanting to physically push myself as much as I can, but falling flat a lot of the time with a body that just can't cope.

Diverting your attention when bed bound or housebound is never an easy assignment. I feel a huge sense of despair and anger over wasted years being house bound, the loss of control of my happiness and so much more. There is nothing those with chronic illness want out of life more than normality and fulfilment on a level that is comforting. Personally, I feel normality could really relieve my 'stuck' factors, however I also know currently, there isn't a normality in my health circumstances. I would love to eventually seek my version of normality one day but for now, I can't control aspects of my pain or health. My symptoms and pain levels have the ability to change from hour to hour and for now, I can only focus on just getting myself through that.

Another prospect that can suddenly emphasise my 'stuck' feelings is realising I will possibly always be this ill, disabled or in this much pain. Whilst stuck in a low mindset, feeling hopeless and unfulfilled in aspects of my life. It's not the way I want to think or feel about life and only independently can I potentially pull myself out of those thinking patterns. I can work towards personal goals and although they may be at a slower pace than average, they are not impossible if I set my mind to the task at hand. I know that in being disabled, we are not supposed to put too much pressure on ourselves and our achievements. However, I also feel that selective goal setting is good for me, personally. I am far too hard on myself a lot of the time, yet I I also like to feel I am working towards something positive and worthwhile in my life with disability. Slow progress is better than no progress at all, as they say.

We are taught from a young age that anything is possible, I do truly believe that is so but its not to say that it will be an easy climb along the way, for anyone let alone those with a disability or illness. On days where I feel more positive, I am usually quite optimistic over this 'anything is possible' mantra. I can think clearer about just getting through and solely focusing on today. However this doesn't mean that the lower days, moments and thought patterns that stem from illness don't swoop in with angry impact, as and when they please.

In ways, so much has changed in my 'stuck feeling'. I am connecting with so many other young people online, all who live with disability or chronic illness. It's good that I acknowledge that aspect as it is something to feel positive about. However, physically in my situation, so much still remains the same, which at times can be incredibly disheartening. It can be so hard to battle through social isolation in chronic illness. My depression, sadness and anxiety come in bounds throughout the week because of my circumstances. My isolation levels feel incredibly overwhelming at this point too. I wish the simple answer of when these moments arise is to physically put myself in a situation where I am not isolated, yet it never feels that easy when living with pain. Pain has the ability to stop you from being able to integrate with others in times when you need to most. An aspect that makes illness even more cruel than it already is to anyone who suffers. It's those times I am especially grateful for my family, particularly my amazing Mum and Dad who would bend over backwards for me.

Being chronically ill is such a roller coaster. There are no magic words that can bring a person comfort when they ask themselves why they have been given a life of illness or disability. I am often guilty of pondering over why my life feels on pause. Will life get any better? Will I be able to achieve my goals, will I be happy enough? What steps do I take to get there? These thoughts and questions can swamp your mind when you are in a bad place with chronic illness, only because its a destination that you aim to reach fairly quickly. You are constantly wanting to better yourself but it can feel like the most cobbled path. I want to actually be a part of life, feeling free from illness and its chains like anyone else my age has the ability to live. Illness and this stuck feeling, often makes me feel like I don't have an established place in this world and it has done for many years.

When putting into perspective how many years I have been housebound, diagnosed and disabled, it shocks me with its considerably long time period. The only positive option you have when faced with the prospect of illness or disability is to cope. In your own way, with your own methods and on your own terms. It's a case of working with your disability when able to, whilst having as much patience as you can find within yourself. Life, whether we accept this or not always continues to carry on no matter what is thrown at us. The earth keeps on spinning, as they say. Days often feel so wasted just waiting for pain to pass. It's not even pain you can work through otherwise trust me, I speak on behalf of everyone in saying we would push through. No one chooses to live a housebound life. No one choose the sadness or despair that comes with a chronic illness.

As sad of a life illness or disability can be, it wont hopefully always feel this way. Life may become brighter, hopeful and enjoyable. Illness is one of those sink or swim moments. Except deep down, we all know there is only one choice and that is to keep swimming, even when the tide feels too over whelming. It's not easy at all to accept this being so young, I found it hard in my teens and I find it hard as an adult. I find myself in despair over this way of life more often than not, but the bottom line is, it is what it is, nothing can change the diagnosis.

I have tried to become more forceful in my abilities, when feeling stuck. There are so many days in a month where physically, my disability and pain feel incredibly over powering and in control. Which to a daily extent, they are. It is not easy to achieve on a day to day basis when in so much physical pain. Not only is it physical, it's usually mentally draining too. When I feel stuck and cooped up, I attempt to take the reins on controlling an ounce of my happiness to make myself feel free of what is trapping me. This is to prove to myself, that even when I feel like I can't, I can. Now I must admit, these small things don't bring me great joy whatsoever, it just feels like a valid necessity that is needed to feel like I am a part of the world and not just fading into the obscurity of my home, away from every ounce of life and living.

I have been trying to become more aware of when I tend to focus too much on this 'stuck' predicament. Ultimately, it is a case of becoming accepting of your current reality, being hopeful that your future can become better yet also being balanced with wanting to fight for a current, fulfilling purpose in your life. It's not fair to allow the circumstances that feel out of your hands, to have the ability to let your life pass you by. Every day is special and every day counts. Every day gives us the chance to change small aspects of our routine, every day is a new possibility for things to fall into place.

It's a struggle to remind yourself to not get continuously caught up in that smothering 'stuck' feeling. It is purely punishing yourself, whilst tending to leave a negative cloud over your current abilities within disability and illness. These abilities are things in which we should be proud of, regardless of the circumstances. We all know just how difficult the smallest tasks and aspects of daily life become. We are angry at this thought in itself but we need to accept it for what it is. Anger towards situations out of our control usually takes more energy than just getting through today.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. What you wrote so thoughtfully, expresses my reality. And I really needed this today.