Living Well With Chronic Illness – Redefining Yourself
Posted by Catherine Morgan on October 25, 2008
This issue is so important, and that is because; When you suffer from chronic illness, although you are being treated (even successfully), going back to your former life before you were sick may be impossible. I hear this all the time from others suffering with CFS and FM, and I am certain it holds true for many others suffering with chronic disease as well. The biggest problem, is that many of us “define” ourselves through our work, or what we do for a living. Quite frankly, this is a bad idea even if you are a healthy person. None of us “are” our work. Our work is not who we are, it’s simply what we do. But, we all know it doesn’t always feel that way, especially when out of nowhere, we are unable to do what we do.
So….What do you do, when this happens to you? Well, it’s not so different than when a stay at home mom sees her last child off to college. They call it “Empty Nest Syndrome” for her, and it can be quite devastating for a women who has devoted her life up until then (usually at least 18 years or more) to being the best mom she could be, and doing it as a career. Now she is left with no-one to mother, and she loses her sense of “self”. At this point, she can choose to except her new life and find new and exciting things to do with herself (maybe go back to school, get back into a career, take up a hobby, or maybe travel), or she can choose to be sad and depressed and feel like her life is over because she has no-one left to take care of. It’s not the same as losing your identity due to illness, but it is an example of seeing your life (or identity), as half full or half empty.
Feeling sorry for yourself can be a full time job, but it’s a job that doesn’t benefit you in any way….so just take it on a part-time basis. Then on the days you’re not working hard at that job, focus on finding something to do with your life that can benefit you.
Step 1 – Make a plan. Take some time to write a list of all the things you can do in your current condition (not just work things; hobbies, school, etc)….even if it is something you don’t know how to do. Write down some “dream” ideas too.
This isn’t something you do in one day…do it over days or even weeks. Open your thoughts to ideas you may not have ever even considered before…this is the first step in “re-making” yourself.
Step 2 – Believe in yourself. Start believing it is possible for you to do one or more of these things. Take your pessimistic cap off for a little bit, and let yourself “feel” the possibilities…..see it in your minds eye.
Now, it’s o.k. if you don’t “feel” it right away, it’s going to take some time. The important thing is, to not let yourself feel hopeless, there are always possibilities out there. It’s just that many times we can’t see these opportunities, because we live in a box that we think we can never escape from. Just remember…This happens to everyone, not just you. So just do yourself a favor, and allow yourself to believe that you can escape if you wanted to.
Even thought it’s just two steps, doing them right takes time. This can be a very long process, so don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s taken me years, and I am still only in the middle of the process. But, you do need to start the process…you can’t reach your dreams or your potential, if you don’t open yourself up to the possibility.