Sunday, May 11, 2014

Regaining control of your life when chronic illness dominates your day

Chronic debilitating illness is an insidious, demanding foe that seeks to rob us of everything in our lives.  It seeks to destroy relationships, careers, life plans, hopes and dreams . . . our entire world can be lost in its clutch.  I'm sure this isn't news to you.  As the life losses mount so do the grief, depression and anxiety.  Some days may feel like a downward spiral into a bottomless pit.  Maintaining a sense of your former self may seem impossible.  As that chronic illness gains an ever tighter hold on you, your sense of identity may wane as you begin to identify more and more with an illness that attempts to dominate your life.

There is one way to beat chronic illness so it doesn't rob you of your life: refuse to be its victim.  That's a tough concept to digest, especially when chronic illness persistently makes each day so difficult and miserable.  Giving up all your dreams and life goals automatically puts you in a victim role.  When you say "I can't because I have fibromyalgia", you just put fibromyalgia in charge of your life.  If you say you can't do something because your partner won't let you, you just put your partner in charge of your life.  Viewing yourself as a victim of anything prevents you from enjoying every moment of your life and steals the joy of accomplishment.

Perceiving yourself as a victim is more debilitating than any chronic illness, because it is so pervasive in every facet of your life.  Feeling like a victim paralyzes you and prevents you from moving forward.  Victimization leads to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety and depression.  In addition victimization keeps you stuck in the muck and quagmire, and the tendency is to focus on how bad life is because someone or something did "it" to you.  When you blame someone or something for how bad your life is, you are sabbotaging yourself.  I'm not talking about taking on so much that it has a negative impact on your health.  But if you have a dream or a life goal, don't give up on it.  That's the kind of stuff that keeps us feeling alive.  If you want a college degree, figure out how to get it done . . . excuses and blaming your illness, your spouse or anything else doesn't get it done.  All that does is take hope away and get you deeper in the muck.  Don't be afraid to set goals.  If you don't quite meet your goal, you can reset the goal line.  And you don't have to go after every goal at the same time.  Pace yourself so you can accomplish what you want without putting your health in jeopardy.

It takes a true warrior, lots of persistence, a whole bunch of patience, loads of fortitude and great courage to get where you want to go.  When you tackle your favorite life goal, do it with enthusiasm and take responsibility for everything in your life.  It will set you free and make you smile too.