Monday, June 28, 2010

Chronic Illness: It Sucks ... And I Deal With It

What advice would I give to someone new to living with chronic illness?

There are so many things I do to cope with my own chronic illnesses, I could probably write a self help book (or several.) But as I contemplate this question, I recognize that what works for me may not work for someone else. Plus, giving advice ignores the fact that today is the result of my numerous experiments, trying out many different strategies to get to the ones that work for me.

Which got me thinking that maybe the best thing to share with someone new to chronic illness might not advice, but my approach.

So here is my guiding philosophy--> Chronic Illness: It Sucks ... and I Deal With It.

It Sucks

A lot of people comment about how positive I am in dealing with my multiple chronic illnesses and ask me how I do it. Here is my secret: I feel all my feelings--the easy ones, the hard ones, the pleasant ones and the crappy ones. I have found that the only way I can tap into living my best life with chronic illness is to be in touch with all my feelings.

I say embrace the suck and all the other feelings that come your way. Don't fight them and don't stuff them. The surprising part is that once felt, feelings don't last very long. Feeling your feelings lets them pass through and dissipate, so they don't control you or make your life miserable.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way.

When I was diagnosed with cancer at age 22, everyone around me started talking to me having a positive attitude. It was like having a positive attitude was the only thing that was going to cure my cancer. So I pushed all my other emotions down and didn't deal with them in the moment. But that didn't mean they went away. In fact, a few years later, I started having problems with depression. I learned that I missed out on dealing with some aspects of my cancer experience because I avoided my feelings.

Feeling your feelings helps you get to the next the next step ... acceptance.

... I Deal With It

Chronic illness sucks, but what I am going to do about it?
I can't wish it away, I can't make it go away and I certainly don't want my life to suck. So after I took some time to feel my feelings and process them, I asked myself what I wanted my life to look like, even if chronic illness was going to be a part of it.

This is how my quest to live my best life despite chronic illness was born.

Yeah, it wasn't a path I chose, but this isn't the first time a monkey wrench had been thrown into my plans. I've learned to embrace this new path and start searching for new things I could do and new directions I wanted to go. I've tapped into the girl who likes a challenge, enjoys taking risks and rises to the occasion. I found a way despite the suck to get motivated and get moving towards the life I want.

So if you are new to chronic illness, I'm sorry. It really does suck, but I am sure you can find a way to deal with it too. Let me know if you need my help ... leave me a comment or send me an email.

P.S. I've discovered that when I am having problems dealing with it, it usually means I need to spend some time going back to feeling the suck. It's a process: two steps forward and one step back. I just keep feeling the suck ... and dealing with it.

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http://bluestarmoon.wordpress.com said...

Selena, you make a great point in stating how important it is to FEEL. For so many years I worked to block those feelings not knowing that by blocking the bad I was also blocking good moments. You have the right approach! thanks for sharing.

Sistergirl said...

Chronic Illness may SUCK in the sense that your life will no longer be the same but sometimes you have to make lemons into lemonade. You have make changes to your life in every way and that takes time and a certain amount of new energy but eventually your perspective and purpose in life will change. You will learn to enjoy life in a new way without being depressed.

Rachel said...

Thank you for the reminder that it is ok to dwell on the suck later on, too...for just a little while, of course! Things aren't rosy all the time.

Anonymous said...

You put it so well. We just have to deal with the suck. I have the same philosophy. Not much else we can do. No sense fighting it. Thank you for your honest post. Very well done! xoxo

Anonymous said...

You should write that book that you mention (if you haven't already). Your entry about chronic illnesses sucking is, to quote an old phrase "right on."
Thx for sharing!

krismom said...

Great post! I LOL'ed but also the message that is there is also serious and helpful. I definitely can relate - and learning to try to live despite the pain was a huge step in my road to "healing" (at least the emotional acceptance side of things - ain't much that can be done for the pain!). you must have amazing strength to have been through cancer and now also chronic pain.
take care,
(aka krismom)