“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” – Me, every morning until I began my mission to find joy in life again.
When you have a chronic illness, it gets old fast. The constant aches, pains, and flare-ups are enough to send anyone over the edge. But I realized a few things about my illness that I needed to recognize in order to find happiness.
First, it isn’t going anywhere. At least, not any time soon.
And second, this is my normal. I had always thought back to times when I was feeling better and longed for those days. But I wasn’t focused on reality.
After I faced those two difficult truths, I was finally able to enjoy life again.
Focus on your health
Even on my worst days, I can say I was guilty of trying to take care of other people first. My niece had a big piano recital, and I simply had to be there. It didn’t matter that I should have been bedridden that day. This wasn’t about me.
But I always paid the price for putting others first. That piano recital cost me another three days of missed work because I was laid out in bed.
It’s really not worth it. And if you’re honest with yourself, you know your loved ones wouldn’t want you to make those kinds of sacrifices for them anyway.
Put yourself first when you need to, so you can give 100% to your loved ones on your good days.
Never give up
Don’t stop fighting. This cliched motto applies to so many things related to chronic illnesses. Don’t stop fighting when the days are long, and the pain is intense. And never stop fighting for a better life.
Keep looking for better solutions. You have to become your health advocate.
There are alternative treatments for virtually every chronic illness that you can try, or at least investigate. For example, stem cell treatments are being used to regenerate cells and heal pain. You may not want to try every alternative treatment, but keep doing your homework. New treatments come out all the time, and you may find one that appeals to you.
Be honest with your loved ones
When you have a chronic illness, relationships can be tough. You worry that your loved ones are getting frustrated with your issues, and that causes tension. If you’re anything like me, this leads to almost complete social isolation. I was always afraid to make plans because I knew there was a chance I’d have to cancel at the last minute.
This is a tricky one because not everyone will understand, but the best you can do is be honest.
Whenever you make plans or encounter a situation where your chronic illness may be an issue, talk about it and be proactive with the conversation, so you don’t feel like you’re making excuses after the fact. Most people will understand.
If anyone doesn’t understand, you really can’t worry about it. There’s nothing you can do beyond complete honesty, so don’t waste the mental energy worrying about it.
Make the plans
Even though you’re going to worry about canceling, make plans. As long as you’re honest about your limitations, people will understand.
The alternative to making plans is social isolation, which is about the worst thing you can do with a chronic illness. We all need people, and that’s especially true when life has us feeling down.
Living with a chronic illness will never be easy, but it’s important to manage your expectations and the expectations of others. When everything is clearly defined, you’ll spend less time worrying about worst-case scenarios and more time enjoying life.