Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 things I have learned from 5 years of being sick

I was reading a blog post called 11 tips learned from 11 years sick that really struck me as how accurate it was for me.

Some of the points that resonated with me were:

  • Becoming chronically ill begins a grieving process. Let yourself grieve.
  • Don't worry about how other people see your illness. They aren't you.
  • Don't worry about not working. You are working, whatever the little things you are doing is work.

So in reflection, here are my 5 things that I have learned from being sick over the last 5 years.

1. Do whatever little you can each day. It matters.

When I first became sick, during that first year when my health and mind were at its worst, I dreaded each day, and I had in my mind that I couldn't do anything. So I stayed in bed a lot of days, and didn't try to get up and do much at all. Pain was everything, and my life was all about pain. I didn't try to do much, because I didn't think I could do much, and I was frightened that doing anything would cause me even more pain.

Eventually that thinking faded, and with this second round of pain that I have been having in the past two years, my mindset has changed. I will get up every day. It may be later, but I will get up. I will try to do something around the house, even if it is only one thing. I will try and spend time with my family, even if it is only during meals and between breaks. Doing this has given me motivation, and a much healthier mind.

My body sucks. I don't.

2. Enjoy each success. There will be bad days, but there will also be good days.

Is the glass half full or half empty? If you were the type of person that sees it as half empty, you would look at chronic pain by saying "Oh, I have so many bad days, they are just so rough!"

I was like that, and sometimes succumb to that type of thinking. What is important to remember is that there are good days. They may not come by that often, but they are there, as gentle reminders of hope. They may be whole days, they may be just a few hours. But they give strength to your heart that you will get through this.

3. Perseverance brings character.

I wish I could say that I had a solid character now that I have been going through this. That would be a lie. However I have learned lots about humility and grace, when you are stripped of everything you thought you had - health, work, sanity, finances and need others to aid you in almost everything you do. I was a very proud man before I got sick. I was very full of myself.

Now, I am still learning, but having faith in God has allowed me to let go, to breath, to be myself, while my body is not healthy. I am more than my illness. My disability does not define me anymore. I am disabled, but I am not my disability. There is still more that I can do, even though I can't do all that I used to do before.

I can and will persevere!

4. Take time to be with your family. They really need you, and you really need them.

When I first got sick, I was hyper-sensitive to everything. sound, touch, smell, lights.  I didn't want anyone around who could make things worse than it already was.  It made it harder for my wife and kids to understand me, or to love me, because I put such a protective shell around myself.  But I was lonely, and so were they.

This second go round, I still need to take breaks to isolate myself a bit, but I try really hard to rest around them, instead of away from them, so that I am present, while still getting the rest that my body needs to heal, or recuperate.

I was a real jerk when I was first sick.  My personality went for a nose dive.  Thankfully, this time I have learned some of the hard lessons, and I am trying to be present in my family's life. My daughters need to be hugged and cuddled.  My wife needs a touch on her arms. They all need to see and hear and touch me.  I need to be present.

5. This too shall pass.

This doesn't mean that your illness, or pain will suddenly end some day, because it most likely wont.  What it means is that this struggle, this pain, this moment's difficulty will pass. It will end. You will be able to catch your breath. Just remember to breathe during those moments, however long they last. Rest. Recuperate. Recharge. Relax.

You need to take in those moments of seeming normality, as it breathes hope and life into a weary body and soul.

I can't say I live these every day, but I am reminded of them often as I face my life with poor health and chronic pain.

I hope these points make you think, and help you if they can.  Please leave me any comments or feedback, or even tell me your story.

Thanks for reading!