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“When you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails”
As a little girl I dreamed of what type of adult I’d be. I wondered where I would stand ten years from then. What I’d be doing, who I’d be with. I dreamed of a life that now seems absurd, but back then, it was my biggest and best fairy-tale. Until a gust of wind blew in and rocked me to my core, shaken and a little broken I did the only thing I could do…I adjusted my sails.
Everyone has a defining moment, a moment where you have to make a choice, you either sink or you swim. But you see I didn’t like either of those choices; to sink I would need to give up and that’s just not an option, I’ve got world peace to accomplish, a world to try and make brighter, I need to be around for that but I also wasn’t ready to just move forward and swim. So, I decided to simply float. Finding out you have a chronic illness is tough. It’s really, really tough and even now as I’m learning more about it, I continually have to readjust my sails wherever the wind decides to blow. But over time you adjust, you grow, you learn and you accept. I may not be able to ever fully rid myself of my illness, nor will it ever become a non-existent part of my life but I made a decision a while ago that I remind myself of daily; to continue living the life I love I had to choose to live with my illness rather than in spite of it. I call it my chronically fabulous life, and it’s wonderful.
Loving a life you didn’t see for yourself isn’t easy, it doesn’t come without its bad days and I’ve most definitely got enough baggage to sink the titanic but I’m going to share with you a few of my methods in ensuring I don’t lose faith in the road I have taken.
- Remember; learn to live with your illness, rather than in spite of it.
Now this particular method I can’t take credit for. This little piece of advice came from a psychologist I once saw when I hit a particularly nasty speedbump in my journey. He asked me the questions I was too scared to answer and pushed for answers I wasn’t ready to give. He asked me simply if I liked who I was. I replied that I supposed I did but he saw through it. He asked me again and I was honest. I said I didn’t. I didn’t like the person I was because I was faulty. All I seemed to do was hurt those around me because I felt like I continuously let them down because I simply could not get better. Nothing I did made things better. Everything I tried seemed to fail and I was heartbroken to be living a life I didn’t want anymore. Living with a chronic illness seemed an impossibility. I couldn’t do it. I admitted that I was exhausted from being stronger than I felt.
But I learned a valuable lesson that day. One that I will hold close to my heart forever. He uttered the words to me that I was so reluctant to believe; “Anna, it’s not your fault. You cannot have guilt over a situation you cannot control”. He was right. He was absolutely right. It took time and it took strength but I found my way back onto my path. I realised that I was doing myself an injustice by keeping secrets about my pain and hiding from the truth. I am who I am, I just so happen to have a chronic illness and that’s okay. It is part of who I am and as much as I wish it wasn’t there, it’s simply the cards I’ve been dealt. I can either, succumb to the pain and allow it to take away the values and strength I hold dear, or I can tuck it carefully in my pocket and live the life I always dreamed. I chose to live. I simply adjust my sail as I go, living with my illness rather than in spite of it. I learned to love myself again, broken pieces and all.
- When life knocks you down, sometimes, it’s okay to roll over and look at the stars.
Living life with a chronic illness does not come without its challenges. It’s not easy and it’s not always pretty. But trust me, the good days will come. They will come and I encourage you to grab on with both hands. Soon enough, you’ll come to understand that even your bad days can be good ones, if you just allow them to be.
Everyone’s life is filled with challenges. Some harrowing, some wonderful and some downright exhausting. I learned long ago that on the days where my pain takes over and I just don’t feel like being a chronically fabulous warrior for the day, it’s okay to take off my armour. There is no shame in taking a day off, trust me, you deserve it. And on these days, please remember that you haven’t lost. Your illness is not winning. You are not defeated. Sometimes it’s okay to say; “I’m just too tired today” and not feel guilty about it. And on these days, when you fall down, just let it happen. Roll over and look at the stars, the view is wonderful.
- Your battle does not have to be fought alone.
This is my most important piece of advice and its one that didn’t always come easy for me. Now I can’t speak for everyone’s individual situation but I can speak for mine. I have a wonderful family, the most amazing friendship group, and I tried to keep them on the side lines in an attempt to protect them. However, in doing so, I hurt them. I lied to them. In all my days, I have never regretted an action as much as I do this. I thought I had to fight this battle alone because I assumed no one would understand. I felt like everyone was looking at me just screaming at me to feel better when I just couldn’t. I later realised I was projecting my own feelings onto everyone else. All along, they were standing by me, waiting for me to take their hands and let me lean on them. Once I did, I never looked back. They have never left my side from the first twinge of pain and I know they never will. They don’t make me feel different or excluded, the make me feel loved and protected. They trust me to come to them when I need them because they know I will. I earned that trust by trusting in them. I swear it’ll be the best decision you ever make. There are people out there that care. There are people out there that want to help. Whether it be family and friends or online support groups. Whether it be a girl with a laptop writing about her own battle; I am here. This battle isn’t a lonely one and I encourage you to let people in. A chronic battle isn’t something to be ashamed off, embrace it. Own it. And then, when you’re ready, accept it.
This is the road I’ve taken and I’m pretty damn proud of it.