What Do You Do When You Can’t Do What You Love?
Updated: Sep 26, 2018
By Ashley | @chronicallybadash | September 25, 2018
If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been posting on here much for the past few months due to some unforeseen circumstances leading to major life changes. Also, the thought of blogging about it all seemed too overwhelming in the moment and I respected myself enough to set it aside.
Anyway, here I am and here is a little about what’s been happening with some potential life lessons sprinkled in because honestly I can’t help myself. I have been updating my Instagram account more frequently with health updates, so feel free to follow that if you’re interested in more details about my treatment, I will link it at the end of this post.
Here is the super condensed version of recent events: In early April, after months of concerning and unexplainable health issues, I went to Mayo Clinic for a week of extensive testing where I saw GI, genetics, and neurophysiology. After days of being poked and prodded and drained of some blood, I finished out the week with a diagnosis of a genetic connective tissue disorder (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Type 3) and suspected dysfunction of my autonomic nervous system (Dysautonomia), causing my black outs, dizziness, & tachycardia. I have follow up appointments in Rochester and have been following their guidelines since returning home to try to manage the symptoms until we are able to create a cohesive treatment plan for the long haul.
Unfortunately, one of the decisions I was forced to make included leaving Iowa City. I have moved back to be with family at this point in my treatment as I work to stabilize and take care of my health first. Moving back in with my parents has never been on my radar and still isn’t my ideal situation, but as life has made clear to me, I can’t predict the future and I have to be flexible in response to challenges. Add this to the (long) list of experiences that will eventually lead me to identifying my higher purpose.
These unforeseen circumstances caused me to reassess my interests and values. I had recognized my passion for wellness several years ago and it has only flourished through my positions in the gym. Fitness and exercise became increasingly important to me and began to essentially define me as a person. First, I was an instructor, then I was a manager, then I was a personal trainer – I was an expert in my area and I took pride in this.
Let me note that there is nothing inherently wrong with strongly identifying with your passions & I believe that the cohesiveness between values and reality can lead to amazing destinations. But what happens when all of that is taken away?
This question was more difficult for me to answer than I thought it would be, allowing me to reflect on the way I had let one aspect of my life define me for so long. Who am I without my fitness? This helped me to realize that well or unwell, I am more than just a body. Despite the fact that this body isn’t functioning to it’s highest potential, I am still me and I am still valuable. The kind, ambitious, sassy, genuine girl is still fully in tact. Nothing within me has to change despite the drastic changes happening around me. Life isn’t something that happens to us, it’s something we participate in – willingly or unwillingly. I want to be willing. I want to be an active member of my life. How can I change my circumstances to make the most out of an undesirable situation?
Instead of wallowing in self pity (although there was plenty of that initially), I made the difficult decision to leave my current apartment, my current job, and essentially my current life in Iowa City. I love all of my clients and I worked so hard to build up my client base, but during this time it is vital that I refocus on myself to reset my body and my brain toward a future that will look differently than I had planned.
This change can be viewed several ways - as a failure, surrendering to the illness, or as a new beginning, learning to be flexible and gentle with myself as I familiarize myself with this new normal.
I choose to participate in my life. I choose to be kind and loving toward myself during this difficult time. I choose to be grateful for what I now have & try not to focus on what I once had. I choose to set my sights on the future and do my best within my limitations to make each experience as positive as possible. I may be losing certain things, but who knows what I will gain. I am still me, though I am constantly growing and evolving.
Ashley is college graduate, personal trainer, advocate, feminist, yogi, and trauma survivor. She is constantly striving to improve her life while learning to accept the limitations that come with her diagnoses of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, POTS, and Bipolar Disorder. She finds great support from the chronic illness community on Instagram and shares her story with the hope that it will inspire others.