How to Live Authentically With a Chronic Illness
By Jordyn C | @TheChronicallyUnimaginable | October 8, 2019
One of the easiest things to do when living with chronic illness is to lie. This probably sounds like an odd statement, but it's true. After many of us get diagnosed, we are thrown into a brand new world. Our bodies are suddenly unreliable and keeping plans becomes a living nightmare. Friends we once knew begin to drop off like flies and we are left desperately clinging to any of the people that stay. It seems mentally overbearing to admit why we are suddenly flakier than the tastiest pie crusts. We have no way of telling the people around us the truth, because we deny the truth from ourselves.
Let me explain. Chronic illness has a peculiar way of throwing life upside down and inside out. For our entire lives, we have been able to have health that we can count on. Health that we took for granted and barely gave a second thought. Yet when one's body has turned in the blink of an eye, it doesn't mean that their way of thinking has changed. We often live for years trying to keep up with our former lifestyles, but tragically failing. It's like our minds don't even register what is happening until we are years in to our journeys.
Surviving in this way is quite toxic to our mental health. We become puppets to the circumstances around us. Think about it. If a person's very life is dependent on being able to keep up with a certain pace, disaster is sure to come. Maybe they can fool themselves for a few years, but they are in a situation that is unstable to say the least. This will quickly give way to dissatisfaction leading to depression. When we are less and less able to keep up with our old lives, the tower starts to crumble. Until one day soon, everything comes crashing down.
We all have experienced that crash in one way or another. When friends begin to leave and we run out of excuses for canceling plans. It's a frustrating time. Unfortunately, nobody has a one on one mentor to point out the pot holes in the road. The only way that one can learn is by going through the experience themselves. My theoretical car is beaten and battered, tired from the years of hitting said pot holes. However, with the suffering I endured, wisdom began to grow. I'm here to tell you that you don't have to live this way with chronic illness. There is a better way to progress.
Remember at the beginning how I said the easiest thing to do was lie? Well, that's the number one problem. In chronic illness, the person that we lie to the most is ourselves. That isn't good at all! As a whole, you need to learn how live authentically in your new body. We lie and convince our own selves that we can "push through". Overdoing the body becomes a commonplace occurrence. The minute we recover from a flare, we are off forcing ourselves past the limit. Even from those who have been living with chronic illness for years, this remains to be the biggest problem. I'm going to give you some tips.
To be your authentic self, you will have to change several key things about how you approach life. If there is one thing that I can tell you, it would be to find moderation in energy use. Energy conservation is one of the most grueling things you have to figure out. Many people feel like they are stuck in a portal between being healthy and sick. Even if you suddenly have a burst of energy, it is important to look ahead and realize that overexertion now will set you back in the days to come. Sticking to a similar schedule of energy expenditure every day, will create a good "back up" collection of fuel. This ensures that you are not running on fumes day in and day out.
Another way to honor your real and raw self, is to address envy. This is a hard topic for me. Who here hasn't felt envious of the joy of others, especially friends, when they are having a great night out? If you haven't, then high five to you! However, I think that many people struggle with envy of each other's ability. This is odd, but I have found that celebrating the ability of others gives me a huge dose of self-respect. You always need to fake it in the beginning though, that part is inevitable. However, after awhile of "faking" your happiness, it will actually turn into real joy. It is like smiling or listening to happy music when you feel sad. Your brain rewires itself!
The last way to be true to yourself is to let go of blame. We often hold a lot of guilt inside from circumstances that we cannot control. For instance, maybe you tried switching to an all natural diet in order to prevent taking medication for your chronic illness. It didn't work and now you blame yourself on the daily, thinking that you would be so much better if only you hadn't "failed". Just throw all that out the window! It isn't your fault that you are chronically ill, were unable to do a certain treatment, or whatever else you are holding on to. You are not the problem in this situation, you never were.
Authenticity in chronic illness is a tough thing to achieve. We aren't given any warning of when the symptoms will first strike and it often flips us on our heads. It provides us with a new life where we have the choice in how we live. I want to give you the opportunity to learn from my experiences and to save you the pain from having to figure it out by yourself. Like Vivian Greene said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Want to tango?
Bio: Jordyn C. is a chronically ill blogger who runs The Chronically Unimaginable. She is very involved in the chronic illness, mental health, and disability communities. Jordyn is an active volunteer for the Chronic Disease Coalition and a Brand Ambassador for Ivye Wear. Her work has been published on The Mighty and on several guest blogs. She is actively looking for opportunities to share her story. You can find her on her blog, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.