We all have the ability to reflect on what we think will provide us with an over all happiness within our lives. It possibly involves being pain free or without an illness, which as fortunate as that would make us feel, it is not currently sustainable within som of our circumstances. Happiness usually involves us convincing ourselves it will truly arrive with one long term, dream or goal. We believe that only when we achieve something so big, we will finally feel happy and complete. Why can't we believe that right now, we also have the ability to work upon and make our present happy, content and fulfilling? This is a concept I often don't know how to abide with in chronic illness and disability. Chronic illness and living in constant pain is overbearing and what you want out of life usually takes a back seat. A lot can feel against you, such as your body and your abilities and you wonder if finding your happy ever after will be a reality despite desperately wanting this outcome.
When you become chronically ill, it doesn't make your goals or ambitions any less important than a healthy beings. Yes, it probably makes them a little harder to achieve but it doesn't make all of them impossible. Achieving is something we are desperate to strive towards in our lives. We tend to become frustrated with ourselves, our bodies limitations, our lack of a normal life. It can be frustrating to have an able mind with a non able body, something many of us struggle with accepting. I think we try to over compensate for our disabilities. Trail of thoughts such as the possibility of always living with chronic pain, always using a wheelchair or being housebound forever, subconsciously rule ourselves out of ever improving. They are hindering our growth as people and replacing us with a definitive disability, which we only become if we allow ourselves too. I know that we would all love to improve, but I don't think we should remain hung up on the prospect of finding a magical cure. Instead, begin by working with what we have been given. Simply, A chance at life.
Living with chronic pain or a disability will always make you doubt your goals. The concept of pain is something we become dependable on, it's almost like our shadow. We know it's abilities to cause havoc as well as the disruption it can cause in a life. You begin to wonder if goals are only achievable to those with health on their side. Health is a huge factor, albeit one that is taken for granted by so many, in the ease and ability of a task. I don't doubt that if something is incredibly meaningful to you and your purpose in life, there will always be a way for you to find the confidence and strength to take the first steps towards reaching your goal. Whether health is on your side or not. Illness means it might not be an easy prospect, but if meaningful, it will be powerful enough. There are so many doubts within a life with a long term illness, but there is also no need to feel unfulfilled in your circumstances. We tend to adapt to giving up on a thought or idea before we have tried in illness, usually to save us the heartbreak, set back and low mood, yet we will never really know unless we try. When we have setbacks in leaps and bounds, it can make us feel incredibly down and disheartened. Almost as if any positive change or progression will never arrive in our lives, but this is a thought not a fact.
Sometimes there will be no overall fixing within your circumstances, this can be a scary wake up call. There are little aspects within our lives that we can adapt, try to change, work with, try to take a different perspective upon but there will never be a complete fix for our pain or incurable illnesses. Sometimes, that prospect can make us feel slightly worse. It feels finalized and any aspect of hope can dwindle. However, we only feel this way if we really allow ourselves to see it as a death sentence. I have days where I wallow, I feel useless, down and quite bluntly a waste of space. It never feels like what we achieve or set our mind to is enough when you live with a chronic illness. You've got to remember, considering we live in constant pain at least it is a start. We all have our down moments, they can be far too frequent and often seem like they are constantly with us, but they really do give you clarity on your stronger days.
I also have days where I am adamant I will reach my goals, because I know it will make me feel like I am a part of society, that my life matters, that I have more to give and just because I crave the natural aspects of being an adult. Typically, just like anyone else my age who is healthy. I don't want to allow my illness to make me miss out on these aspects of life that I am just as entitled to as anyone else. I just have to want it enough, to try my best to change and adapt my current situation.
I have my moments where I focus on the goal as a whole, which can make me feel incredibly far away from actually reaching them. Another set back in my mind. It's only when I think of that overall goal in a different way that the possibilities and factors within it seem to become more achievable, build-able and attainable. For every goal I have however big or small, simple or complicated, I now create the very trusty, spider diagrams.
One of my goals at the moment is to try and build upon driving alone, something I am too frightened to do because of my symptoms and pain. Yet I know deep down, this will possibly open up new doors for me. I will be able to visit local family and friend's for a change of scenery, I will be able to run an errand by myself eventually. It's not something I express, but to me its a massive deal. It's a fear. Something not many people think of as challenging is something I have struggled with for years now. So my spider diagram of driving alone first includes to the end of my road, around the road, up onto the main road and then to a friends house. I know I will have to repeat this step multiple times to gain my confidence but I will do so to not be so frightened. I have factorized my goal in order to not make it seem so overwhelming and unattainable to my pain, illness and lifestyle. I also do this because it's more rewarding to be able to tick off the smaller factors in my goal than it is to stress over not reaching it just yet.
When you begin to doubt yourself, you plant a negative seed which you then always return to when you are feeling low. Over time, you begin to start believing and feeding off the negative thoughts. You must always try to remember the thought that instigated you wanting to even achieve your goal. It will in time become enough to carry you through the first scary hurdle that is holding you back. You just need to understand and accept that chronic illness means that the smaller factors within your goals, are the real focus. Otherwise everything will feel overwhelming, unfair and unattainable.
Recently, I have been thinking of many professional and personal goals. I started to write lists of all of the positives and then I was swamped and plagued with the doubts, which seemed to take more of an effect on me than the positives did. I was seriously doubting myself, yet I was aware it was a negative seed. Can I even do that? Am I clever enough? Do I really know what I'm doing? Will my pain allow me to go forward with this? Ultimately, I will never know unless I try and that will be my optimism. If that is the aspect or even the one thing that carries me through, then it will be enough for now. Our goals and aspirations will not always be successful the first time we want to achieve them, they will scare us and we will feel let down more than once. In illness, it will feel like a setback, especially when you know how hard you are trying with a body that often, does not want to co operate. Trying is never a setback, it really is a brave triumph!
Goals in comparison to others our age are what we tend to focus on. Everyone in this life is notorious for comparing themselves to someone else. Some one is always going to be richer, prettier, brighter, funnier, happier. Try not to compare yourself to others. I do that all too much and it only ever makes me doubt my personal achievements at a chronic illness level, which not many have to deal with. I end up convincing myself I will never be like them, doubting myself before I've even took a step on a similar path. In order to eventually be like those people who inspire us or fuel us (if it's what we desire), we need to just draw the line at admiration before we reach an unhealthy, constant comparison that ends up dragging us down.
Instead, we need to break down and analyse what lies within our personal overall goals. If your goal is to get back to work, stamina and strength might firstly be the smaller goals you must work towards, in order to get there. All of these smaller attributes, no matter how little or less rewarding than earning money at a job they seem are what gives you hope in life. They remind you that your heart is still beating under your chronic pain exterior, that your life is still important and that you will find a purpose. Every time I do something small once in a while I think, well at least I have been out in the world today. It's still disheartening to not be out there upon levels that are frequent, but it would have been worse if I had stayed stuck inside, hidden away.
I came up with this example when thinking of the prospect of factorizing goals in chronic illness. If you want to make cupcakes with your own recipe by hand, firstly you have to figure out the exact ingredients you want to use. Then you have to go to the shop, possibly even two, search the rows of aisles and find the right ingredients. You then come home and prep your oven, baking utensils and dishes and then have to weigh out your ingredients. Along comes the process of having to make the cake mix, which will involve some whisking, beating and mixing. You are then able to de counter the mix into cup cake cases. Once you have prepared the cup cakes, you have to put them in the oven and wait 25 minutes for them to bake. Finally cooked, you then must wait a further 10 minutes for them to cool down before you can begin to add any icing and toppings. Eventually after a while, your cupcakes will be ready to serve and be enjoyed. My point being in the cupcake example was not to make you all hungry, it was to prove that is an incredibly lengthy process to get to the point of success. Theoretically, the process of being able to hold a baked cup cake in your hand is never a quick snap of your fingers, it was an action instigated by a thought in order to produce a finished result. Every major goal is soaked with little goals and hurdles within it's process.
I am the ultimate dreamer. I think of what I'd like to achieve and in my mind, I'll be there by next week or next month. In my dream world, I'd actually be there by tomorrow. In reality it may possibly take years but it also, might not. Yet that doesn't mean that the entire process to get towards all of the places that I want to be, can't start right now, in this moment, today.
Little steps can even appear from just building or acknowledging them in your mind. Whether that be thinking about something more rationally, being able to see the positive quicker than yesterday, being more compassionate to others but more importantly, yourself. One day, you will realise that all of the little steps you are taking in your day to day life, would have played an important part of getting you to where you are in your present. In reality, the possibility of us ever feeling completely well, healthy and able is quite small but the possibility of us being able to work on the smaller aspects within our circumstances, focusing on those triumphs and improving those are pretty high. Be kind to yourself and remember, don't run before you can walk.