Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Can't, Won't, Don't

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own • (U2 ...Image by Henry0 via Flickr

I've been thinking about the four letter words associated with my life with chronic illness a lot lately in my role as host for the upcoming February 10th edition of the Patients for a Moment blog carnival. Words like cope, pain, fear, hate, ache, hard, rest, pace, heal, ouch, sigh, woes and hope. Yet for some reason the combination of can't, won't and don't kept rolling around in my head over the past few days...

Main Entry: can't
\ˈkant, ˈkänt, especially Southern ˈkānt\
Date: 15th century
can not

  • The long-term disability insurance company says: We can't pay benefits for more than two years for someone with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • I say: I can't do as much as I used to do because pain and fatigue limit me.

Main Entry: 1don't
Date: 1639

1 : do not
2 : does not


  • The doctor says: I don't think there is any reason for you to come back and see me again. I don't think there is anything more I can do for you.
  • I say: I don't feel good. The doctors don't really know what is wrong with me and they don't really have anything to give me to make me better.

Main Entry: won't
\ˈwōnt; New England, upstate NY, nPa ˌwənt, ˈwənt; greater NYC ˈwünt; eSC ˈwünt, ˈwnt\
Date: 1562

: will not

  • My spouse says: You won't be able to keep going to those appointments because we can't afford the out-of-pocket costs.
  • I say: I am having a bad day and I won't be able to meet up with you like we planned.

In my teens and 20's, words like can't, don't and won't were akin to waving a red cape in front of a bull. Anyone speaking those words, telling me what I wasn't able to do got a passionate 'F*** you!' as a response. I then proceeded to show that person they were absolutely wrong: I could, I would and I did.

In my 30's, I felt the bile rise in my throat when people I supervised as social work program manager uttered those words. I was all about getting things done for our clients and I tried very hard to inspire others to rise up and eliminate barriers by knocking them down or figuring out how to get around them. I came to view people who talked in can'ts, don'ts and won'ts as lacking motivation, creativity and determination.

Now in my 40's and living a life with chronic illness, I have to accept that there are some things I can not do or change. For the first few years of my transition into this new life, I got pretty upset when ever I ran into people who believe there wasn't anything wrong with me or focused on their limitations and inability to help me. That's when I came full circle. I somehow found my passion to once again prove the nay-sayers wrong by finding reasonable and appropriate things I could do despite my chronic pain and fatigue. I also started cutting loose those people focused on their limits and unable to think outside of the box for new and novel ways that could help me. I got it that chronic illness is really all about self-management of symptoms like pacing, resting, planning and saying no and self-help approaches to coping like play, pray and support from others.

So go ahead, chronic illnesses, keep telling me I can't, won't and don't. This tired and achy babe still has a fire in her belly and is ready to take you on. I've got more life to live and I'll be damned if I am going to let you take it away from me. I'm on a mission to live my best life despite chronic illness and that mean focusing on can, do, does and will.

~definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster.com

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1 comment

Annie said...

I really loved this Selena, and feel like I can relate to every single line in there.

However, in a way it might even be easier for me as I have never had it not be this way.

I hope someone finds something that works for you soon.