A Positive Life With Chronic Illness
When I asked the Chronically Awesome Community how their illness might have changed their lives in any way that was positive, I did not consider how complex it would be for me to answer that question. A positive life with illness? Really?
Why complex? It would seem that it would be easy. Had I not become chronically ill I would not have started The Chronically Awesome Foundation.
Had I not become chronically ill, I would not have met the many people both online and in my “real life” that have inspired me, and have become family to me.
Had I not become chronically ill I would not have learned the things about me that are my strengths, and used them to develop. I would not have learned more about my weaknesses, and tried my hardest to grow up, and away from them.
Also, very true.
Happiness Is Good For Your Health
I have taken many negatives about being chronically ill and “flipped” them into good things. I have made something out of what could have been a bad thing into a good thing. A good thing not just for me, but for others. I have made a positive life with chronic illness.
I do have a confession to make.
There have been some shitty times. Times of great physical, and mental pain. Times I should be able to say that I am grateful for as “teaching moments” (wow, I HATE that expression).
I have almost lost dear family members to these illnesses. I have lost people in my life that meant the world to me. Individuals who are gone forever that I will miss forever. I have lost a career, hobbies, a whole lifestyle.
I sat here all day, Thanksgiving Day, alone, recovering from an epidural. I am alone on Thanksgiving, trying to think about what in the world is good about being chronically ill. What on earth can be right about the fact that every time I move, my bones shift out of their sockets, and the vertebrae of my spine are disintegrating?
We Are Still Like Everyone Else
As I started to write about ups and downs I was reminded that ups and downs are not unique to us, the chronically ill. These ups and downs mean we are alive.
I wake up every morning and, no matter how I feel, I open my eyes, and I am breathing.
It sounds like I have more in common with those that are well than I remembered. In fact, as I sit here and think about it I realize that what I need to do is remember the things I forgot, the things that not too long ago made me a more whole and happy person.
We are like trees in the fall. Leaves drop to prepare us for growth. It is our responsibility to do something with the growth. If we choose to take a break and hibernate then, we gamble on whether or not the chance will come back around to us.
I took a great leap. I hit reset and started over. The leaves falling now are tired, hard worked, deserving of retirement. I have learned many things in the last six months. I have not had a simple hibernation. I have learned to live alone for the first time in my life. I have learned to go out on my own and meet new people. I have made friends in my neighborhood by knocking on doors. I was afraid to make this change, to grow. Then I remembered:
I am chronically awesome
When I got sick, I did not become less of a person.
When I first got sick, I was convinced, for many months, perhaps a year, that I was going to die. Then I met someone that helped set me straight. I got a proper diagnosis, and with someone in my corner who saw me as a fighter, I became a stronger person.
Still, the only person that can be responsible for getting me through life and the things in it is ME. While it is fantastic, beautiful, and amazing to have the loving help of another person or people through all of these challenges. I cannot, and should not expect anyone to help me until I can help me.
This Thanksgiving I am grateful for all of the lessons I have learned not just this year, but those that got me to this year. I am grateful for the pain and the loss, the dancing and the joy. My hibernation is over, it is time to get back to the business of being awesome, it is time to get back to defining myself by my standards and not the standard of illness.
This Thanksgiving I am grateful for all of the iterations of Jules that have come before me now and for the Jules that I will be from here forward.
This post was written for The Chronically Awesome Foundation Thanksgiving #WordFeast 2014
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