Wednesday, 14 October 2015
Life with chronic illness is what you make of it...
When you are predominantly housebound, going out means usually going to a different hospital every other week and your idea of a 'fun night' turns into just about making it downstairs to watch a film with your pet. If it's not moving mountains for you, it probably means you are chronically ill. You feel like you have died and been replaced with pain. It becomes the clothes you wear and your unwanted shadow that unfortunately, doesn't disappear with the sunlight at the end of each day. Your body has been overtaken by an illness and left for you to pick up the pieces, yet you never really know which path to take. If you're living with persistent pain and illness, can you truly be happy? Can you live past the pain?
Life for many with a chronic illness, never feels uplifting. It's always a continuous struggle to get through each hour. Setbacks have the forceful ability to remind you of the aspects of life you are missing out on, all too frequently. You can feel lack of triumphs, success, presence and the all important, lack of living. Despite trying to keep your spirits up throughout the miserable circumstances that come with constant pain, life can feel lacklustre, not fun enough, non exciting and non adventurous for the most part. Everything you lack has the ability to turn itself into a negative despite remaining as hopeful as you can. Negativity seems to be more than obvious to many on a daily basis and has a knock-on effect on an individual's mindset.
We often can't face the risk of making our pain any worse than it already is. Pain in one small area is enough to make anyone feel miserable until the sensation lifts from their body. In life, I've heard people say how they are possibly struggling with shoulder, ankle or back pain. Pain rightly, drags the happiest of people down. Pain in your whole body, in more than one selective area, is something that makes depression arise, replaces any positive vibe and drains you of functioning correctly. The function of good health is what we need in order to live. We almost instantly lose our entitlement to happiness because it's over ruled by constant and physical pain. Nobody wants to live a life like such, yet when you do it becomes your consistent robotics of existing.
I think it's important to be aware that although many of us may be chronically ill and disabled, it doesn't mean we are any less as entitled to happiness, joy, fun, success and love. You might feel persistent pain and illness but you are not the illness, the difference is you have an illness. You are rightly, a human who deserves the world. Happiness might be seen as having a full life. In my head, it's always been seen that way until recently. I know I have to try my hardest to make my present happy and fulfilling in order to create a happier future. I need to know I am worthy of all good qualities of life too, despite my disability and illnesses. It is an aspect I am trying hard to really drill into myself and my mindset, multiple times a day. I hope you can all reflect on that personally too as I'm sure many people would have struggled with the same predicament.
If you were to write on paper what your illness has taken away from you, the list would probably be incredibly long and of ease to write. Yet, in reality, your illness hasn't completely stolen everything from you. You are still human and as difficult as it will be to begin thinking of ways to help adapt your life, it's those aspects you need to emphasis, locate, focus on and attempt to make the most of in order to see some changes. That statement in the past would've had the ability to make me frustrated and convince myself that actually, I was just an incurable illness and will always see myself as just that. Now I want those words to start fuelling me. I want to acknowledge everything my illness has supplied me with too. Things such as new friendships, candour, strength to live with high pain levels every single day. I do not want and will not allow my illness to strip me of my happiness each and every single day. I do not want it to steal my life away with the pain it provides and I do not want it to dictate what I do or do not deserve. I also don't want that for those of you who may read this.
I've really tried to challenge myself since early summer by asking, so how can I truly and consistently re create a happy existence when living with multiple, lifelong chronic illnesses? How do I re enter the world after feeling cut off from it all for nearly 9 years, as a chronically ill disabled young woman? It's all I want but how do I go about it? That ultimately, can only be my doing. I can take inspiration from others, I can have the want to do it but I need to find the mental strength within myself because physically, I may always be held back. That prospect, completely terrifies me. Yet I know it's the only way to progress positively in an incurable, long term illness. It's the only route I can take in aiming for positive progression and as close to 'normality' as I crave. We have so much more to give.
Life is what you make of it, despite the cards you may have been dealt. Life isn't always fair but it is a gift. My physical pain could allow me to stay hidden away in bed for my entire life if I allowed it too, yet I know this is will not bring me joy in the long run or in my present. The present is all we have been promised and need to act upon, despite our chronic illnesses. My low confidence issues that have come along with my illness and disability could also cause me to hide away too. Yet I know that by keeping myself locked away in pain, I will never achieve any of my small goals, let alone my big ones. I know that chronic pain on a large, everyday scale, is something that I and so many other people will deal with for life. As scary as that thought is, it becomes less scary when you gradually accept it for what it is and try to act upon what you currently have and what you can do now. What can you achieve today? What can you do today for a better tomorrow?
Many individuals who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or disability feel like life and the world as they previously knew it, has well at truly ended. A lot of us go through that long term, grieving stage of our old self. I felt pure misery in the early years and still have my low days. Yet really, all we need is a little bit of time to rediscover what we can do, what doesn't increase pain levels too drastically and most importantly, what reignites happiness as close to as what we once knew. Living in pain will never make you happy, physical and mental suffering will not become any less apparent in your daily life. I am trying to teach myself why I loved a lot of things in the first place, before the pain became very apparent in every minute of my day. No matter how simple they may seem on the outside.
Live for yourself, your own abilities and try not to conform to your illness or disability. It might be a life sentence in ways of long term ill health, yet it doesn't have to be on your outlook, state of mind and overall ability to try your best to be happy despite your circumstances. Your happiness should not be subjected just because you are chronically ill, disabled or housebound. You shouldn't continuely miss out on multiple aspects that may bring happiness to your life just because you have an illness. You should not give yourself more limits than what your illness has already physically, presented to you. We have a life, all be it right now, not particularly practical or functional and that's what we need to acknowledge. It's still a chance that is there to make the most of.
My illness is incurable and has the potential to continuously deteriorate, so if I can't change my pain or my illnesses peril, I need to look towards what I can change in myself for a better tomorrow. My attitude in how I deal with my illnesses, my outlook on my present, pushing slowly past my comfort zone. When the negatives outweigh the positives, I challenge them. I might have to use a wheelchair for now, but I still have a personality that can shine past my aid. I have an illness but I'm not the illness and I shouldn't define myself by the prospect of my pain or disability. I might not be able to work full time right now, but I can study in the meantime which one day, might be useful. My pain will never be invalid and it will always be there, just like your pain. That is something we need to accept and push through to still enjoy life and not continuously become the 'illness'. It's what I have been doing since I became ill and it's not right.
It's fair to say that pain is holding you back because it's truly, not a lie. It's a valid reason, yet pain then continues to overrule and rob you of the existence you currently have, which you may be unaware of. Pain certainly does hold you back from many things, it is often consuming to the point of leading to limitations, unwanted isolation and inability to see hope for your present let alone your future. There are no words that can bring a person comfort who lives such a life. Quality of life becomes the all important factor when it comes to creating happiness. Yes, pain levels need to be slightly less in order to be able to create that quality of life but realising that even if you only manage one outing a week for now, tailor it to your current pain and attempt something that will make you remember you are human underneath your exterior of pain. Even if you live in chronic pain, with many illnesses and a predominantly housebound existence, there is always worth within you. Your circumstances do not define you, they are only challenges that set you up for a different path in life.
It's easy to say we doubt anyone wishes they were us, but who are we to know we are not actually inspiring someone, helping someone or have something in life that someone else wishes they had? It is always going to be easy to compare what seems like an empty, illness ridden life to a typical young lifestyle. However, everyone is fighting their own battles and everyone has personal problems that can feel overbearing. Never look too deep into a photograph, social media uploads or listen to deeply into gossip and convince yourself that others have the perfect life. After all, as children we are all taught to smile for the camera. Maybe grin and bearing it becomes everyone's shield.