At the end of one year and the beginning of a new year, it is only natural to look back. To think about all the things that happened. To think about our health and our life. When you live with a chronic illness, you can’t look back at a passing year without also looking at how your health has changed and how it has impacted you and others around you.
As much we hate to admit it, chronic illness can change us. Some may feel that their illness may have caused them to lose themselves in the process. But did they lose themselves or have they just changed?
If this is your first year since being diagnosed with a chronic illness, it may be a little overwhelming. You may be looking back going, “Oh my, all I did was start a million new medications and see a thousand different doctors!” Which in reality is probably right on track.
Even if this isn’t your first year being diagnosed, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. Living with a chronic illness is just hard. It is really hard to lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of everything that comes along with being sick. I’ve been there. Personally, as I look back at last year, and the last seven since diagnosis, I can see the changes. I can see that I am not who I once was. I can’t honestly tell if I “lost myself” or if I’m just slowly changed into the me that I am now. What I can tell you is that like many others living with chronic illness, I am not the same person I was when I got diagnosed.
The things I used to do no longer seem to bring me joy. Getting out of the house and seeing friends no longer seems as important. I can’t decide if I want to jump on the bus with the term saying I “lost myself” or go with the more probable answer and say that chronic illness has just changed me as a person.
None of us had a part in this decision. No one asked us if we wanted to live like this. It just fell into our laps. Sadly, we can’t change the fact that we are living with these conditions. All we can do at this point is apologize for missed dates, canceled plans and days spent in bed. We can, however, change our mindset and how we react to things moving forward.
C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” So today, we have to try to make a conscious effort to spend less time in bed, or to cancel fewer plans and try to be better to ourselves. Because let’s be honest, the person we are hardest on is ourselves.
I know many spoonies feel as though they have lost part of the person they once were. I know this from reading posts in support groups. They say they have lost their smile or they have lost their whole being over the course of being sick — because having a chronic illness really is draining. Everyone always says it won’t happen to them when they get diagnosed. That they won’t let it happen.
Sadly, in some ways, it usually happens. But then comes the discussion. Do we really “lose ourselves” or do we just change over time? Either way, chronic illness is life-changing for many reasons — including many that most people wouldn’t think about. I want to encourage each of you reading this to take time for yourself each week to do something you enjoy. Just for you, just to make sure things don’t change too much this year.
It is no secret that a chronic illness can be time-consuming and life-changing. One illness can take over your life, but then you add two, three or four more and it feels like your life revolves around your health. Just like a new relationship or a new job, an illness can change everything. But it doesn’t have to be that way, in my opinion.
That is probably easier said than done, but it can be done. Most of us still need help with making sure that our health doesn’t take over our life. But I encourage you to try to change that this year.
For me, 2020 is going to be a year of intention and grace. I hope you will be spending time focusing on you as well. Get back to doing the things you really enjoy, even if it’s little by little. Spend some good quality time with family and friends. I encourage you to do something that brings you peace and happiness every day, and if you only have a few minutes, that’s OK.
Focus on you. Journal, read a book or call up an old friend and catch up. Do something for you. I know this may sound selfish, but it is essential. We all have to take time for ourselves or eventually, the person we knew may slip away. And you will be in a place like I am, realizing that you have totally lost the person you used to be.
How have you been successful at keeping joy in your life with illness? Let us know in the comments below, and offer your support to others.