Image via WikipediaNothing sucks the life out of you like finding out you are sick. It feels an awful lot like jumping into a pool filled with cold water. As you enter, you feel shock and numbness. When you surface, it's really hard to take that first breath. All you want to do is get out of the water and get back on the deck of the pool, but you can't get there without swimming.
After those first few moments of panic back in 2004 when I discovered that my body wasn't working quite right anymore, I suddenly realized my new job was to find medical professionals that could help fix me. Everything else doesn't matter. My life was officially on hold while I dealt with this health problem.
Several months into my latest search for a cure, I got even more bad news. I had the misfortune to be stricken with an invisible, chronic illness of questionable legitimacy in the medical community: fibromyalgia. There were now infuriating questions about whether I was ill or malingering. On top of that, the medical professionals who did believe me couldn't offer me any course of treatment that will restore me back to my previous healthy state.
What if I have to live the rest of my life with disabling, invisible chronic illness?
A year and a half into this whole ordeal, after I finished kicking and screaming (in my head of course), I started to consider that this might actually be my reality. I can't just keep putting my whole life on hold, I thought. But then again, what kind of life can I have if I am living with unrelenting chronic pain and chronic fatigue?
It seemed like too big of a question to answer all at once. So instead, I created a list of six things to try and do each day to help me make the transition from patient to person living with chronic illness. Number one on my list: have fun every day.
At first, I had no idea what to do with myself. But I knew ordinary things like watching TV or reading a book weren't what I had in mind. Old hobbies seemed impractical or impossible with the limitations my chronic illnesses imposed. I literally had to start from square one and figure out 1) what I could do and 2) what would be fun.
I gave myself permission to be totally hedonistic. I sought out the things that made me feel good, things that made me feel alive. Through trial and error and a lot of experimentation, I discovered that I could blog, write, loom knit, crochet, play games on the Wii, learn new things from the programs on PBS, container garden, bird watch and care for a dog.
Along the way, I started dreaming again. I found myself making mental notes and jotting down other things I wanted to do. Spurred on by a friend, I gave some thought to what I might put on my new business card now that I was 'retired' and free to pursue new options. I started thinking about creating a new, not so big life with a few, important things at the center of it that could nourish and inspire me.
Oliver Goldsmith said:
“Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.”The funny thing is, while I've been learning to make the best of what I have at hand, I discovered a new passion for living life. I'm more determined than ever to become a phoenix rising from the ashes ... or Madonna on her Reinvention Tour. The more I have fun and enjoy my life today, the more I can let go of old dreams and aspirations and begin to recreate myself, living my best life despite chronic illness.
I'm learning to swim, and the water really isn't that cold after all.