What’s the number one challenge you face with a chronic illness?
What’s THE THING that’s standing in your way of living a great and full life in spite of a diagnosis?
Seriously, what obstacle is standing in your way of living your illest life?
I’ve asked this question to myself more times than I can count over the past couple years and no matter the situation it always came down to one thing: MINDSET. Not believing I was worthy or capable of happiness, lack of belief in myself, feeling sorry for myself, comparing myself to others, and so on.
“Who can be happy about a chronic illness?”
“If I wasn’t chronically ill, I could xyz.”
“Who would love someone with a chronic illness?
“What’s the point in trying? My body hates me.”
Does this sound like you?
Is your mindset a mess right now and you’re one flare-up or symptom away from a breakdown? Does the thought of living a full happy life with a chronic illness feel impossible? If so, you’ll want to continue reading.
The Physical Challenge You Face with a Chronic Illness
Physically, I can’t it. (Whatever IT is)
Four years ago, I would have said the same thing.
I remember right after I was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, I was in my therapist’s office breaking down (ugly Kim K crying) about how my life was “over” and all the goals I wanted to accomplish were pipe dreams now.
“Morgan, what’s stopping you from still achieving your goals?”
Annoyed, my responses were along the lines of:
“I can’t even walk up my stairs. How the hell am I supposed to run a marathon?”
“I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to work and support myself. Why would I spend money renovating my home that I may have to sell or making large purchases when I need to be saving as much as possible?”
Those are logical responses, right? I can’t because everything in my life is unknown and physically I have no control.
There will always be a million
reasons (excuses) why you can’t. All you need is one reason to try.
There will always be a millionMorgan G, Is Was Will Be
reasons(excuses) why you can’t– especially with a chronic illness. All you need is one reason to try.
The Emotional Challenge You Face with a Chronic Illness
I know what you’re thinking.
Morgan, you have a chronic illness. What’s there to be happy about? You had no control over your body and were taking a truckload of meds every day.
Yes. I was sad – depressed even. I went dark, really dark, really fast. Once the reality of the illness set in, I let it consume me.
Knowing that your body is fighting itself and feeling that lack of control is frustrating. My self-love took a big hit. I hated my body for turning against me and for the changes it was going through.
Trying to stay in good spirits is a challenge you face with a chronic illness.
My mood was very much dictated by my symptoms for the day. Low/no symptom day = pleasant Morgan. High symptoms day = miserable Morgan.
However the thing about chronic illness, one minute you’ll feel perfectly fine then the next you feel like complete crap. I love the ups and downs, twists and turns of rollercoasters but this was one ride that I wanted to get off.
I knew I wanted to be happy but I didn’t know how.
The Pursuit of Happiness
I stayed on that chronic illness emotional rollercoaster for about two years before I started making changes.
I’m not sure if that’s a long time but it felt like an eternity of despair. And honestly, I feel like I had to go dark in order to search for the light. I realized that I’d have to fight for my happiness/dream life just like I was fighting for my health.
I realized that I’d have to fight for my happiness/dream life just like I was fighting for my health.Morgan G., Is Was Will Be
What would make you happy Morgan? That’s easy. Not having a chronic illness duh.
Since there are no major wands, I had to dig a little deeper and do some soul searching.
I thought back to that day when my therapist asked me: “Morgan, what’s stopping you from still achieving your goals?”
Looking back I can see that she was trying to get me to change my mindset. But I wasn’t in a place to receive it then. Everything about the diagnosis was too fresh and I was still in shock, still processing, still mourning.
Well, even if the MG stays, what else is going to make you happy? Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? How do you want to feel?
That began my journey of self-discovery (Who am I? What am I passionate about? Where do I see myself in 5,10,20 years?) and figuring out how to be happy with a chronic illness.
There were so many unanswered questions but I knew one thing for sure. It all started with my mindset and me deciding that I wanted a change.
My Five Major Chronic Illness Mindset Shifts
1. I decided that I deserve to be happy (illness or not).
I think self-worth and self-esteem are these that we all question. It’s not just a challenge you face with a chronic illness. But I definitely thinking having an illness amplifies any insecurities.
I was diagnosed at 27. With myasthenia gravis, the prognosis is pretty good. So I barring a freak accident or complication I had decades left “to live”.
However, quality of life matters. All I could see was a life of medications, doctors, hospitals, being tube fed, and losing everything I worked for or wanted.
Once I decided that I have value and am worthy of happiness, I gave myself permission to dream again. I was more optimistic about what life could look like.
Once I decided that I have value and am worthy of happiness, I gave myself permission to dream again. I was more optimistic about what life could look like.Morgan G., Is Was Will Be
2. I was focusing on everything that’s going wrong.
I’ve shared before that my first six months of living with myasthenia gravis were brutal. Each day it seemed like my health was declining more.
As my symptoms and medication increased, so did my “I hate it here” list.
Figuring out how to find positivity when the illness seems to be taking over is definitely a challenge you face with a chronic illness. However, here is where I learned about the importance of gratitude.
In the midst of everything falling apart, I realized that I could still be happy and dance in the storm (literally and figuratively). I told myself that there was at least ONE thing to be grateful for daily.
Some days I was able to find more things to be grateful for: I was able to walk the entire block. My eyelids weren’t drooping. I didn’t choke while eating a grape.
On the days where it was difficult, I still found one thing to be grateful for: I am alive today. Waking up that day (even though it was a “bad day”, meant that I had purpose and I had another day to achieve).
3. If I was going to be happy, I needed to define it for myself
After diagnosis, everyone had an opinion about what I should and or shouldn’t be doing-especially my family.
Knowing their opinions were mostly based on concerns for my health, I tried to adhere. I stopped going out; stopped trying to work out; ate different; took all the medications – everything they said would be for the best.
At this point in my journey, I resolved that I needed to lower my expectations. I wouldn’t reach the goals of “healthy people”. The most I could strive for stabilization of the illness (aka settle for what they said was good enough).
Do you know what happened? My symptoms got worse and so did my depression.
The problem was, this is MY life to live – not theirs.
What’s the point in doing “everything right” if it wasn’t helping the situation or even worse making me miserable? I didn’t want to wake up one day in my 80s and look back on my life realizing that I NEVER did anything I wanted to do or I let a thing like a diagnosis stop me from being me.
I needed to end my dependence on other peoples approval and make my voice the most important in the room. That meant, listening to their concerns but in the end trusting myself to make the best decision for my health and happiness.
Note: Happiness looks a little different for everyone – even though the media will try to tell you that you should have this or be this in order to be happy or successful.
After diagnosis, everyone had an opinion about what I should and or shouldn’t be doing-especially my family. The problem was, this is MY life to live – not theirs.Morgan G., Is Was Will Be
4. I needed to free myself from perfection.
Once upon a time, I had a vision for my life. Then along came myasthenia gravis and basically shook my life plan like an Etch a Sketch.
I was a perfectionist (still in perfectionists anonymous). Not being able to make a plan, stick to it and meet the goal broke my spirit.
As an all or nothing type of gal, the fear of failing to meet my goals paralyzed me. If it couldn’t look exactly the way I envisioned it, I failed in my eyes. If the risk of “failing” was too high, I didn’t even try.
Finding a balance between your hearts desires and your body’s tendencies is a challenge you face with a chronic illness but it’s worth it. Here is where you have the freedom to experiment and play.
There are many ways to skin a cat they say. Basically- the key is to be flexible.
Once I took the pressure of perfection off of the table and replaced it with progress, I felt more comfortable experimenting (aka trying and “failing”). It gave me room to say, “not today and that’s ok”.
5. I realized I have something to offer the world.
“Poor Morgan – she had so much potential… until she was diagnosed with a chronic illness.”
Minimizing yourself to a victim or weak may be a challenge you face with a chronic illness.
For a long time, I felt sorry for myself. When the illness was running rampant and my daily activities were severely impacted, it was an identity crisis.
Who am I if I can’t be me anymore or do the things I do?
I can barely take care of myself. I have nothing to offer anyone. Pretty soon I’ll be a burden on those around me.
The truth is, you don’t need a perfectly healthy body to be a good person. Whether you realize it or not, your existence impacts the world greatly. If you’ve never seen The Butterfly Effect go check it out.
Waking up each day is a reminder that I have a purpose. I have abilities and talents that go beyond physical movement. And with technology, I can connect without even leaving my home.
I used the very thing that made me feel weak and powerless (the illness) to give myself purpose (spreading awareness and connecting with others living with chronic illness) and help others take back their power.Morgan G., Is Was Will Be
6. I needed to focus on what I could control
Emotions and mindsets are what you wear not who/what you are.
Think about that for a second. Each day, you choose what you want to wear (unless you’re a baby, or in prison or another place were clothing choices are limited).
I digress, just like you choose what outfit you put on you can choose what emotion or mindset you want to wear. You can choose it and you can change it.
No, I couldn’t always control my body or my symptoms. But you know what I could control – my mindset and my emotions.
I woke up with a droopy lid and double vision today. I could either be upset about it and allow that to ruin my entire day (laying in bed feeling sorry for myself). Or I can accept it and choose to be happy inspite of.
When I realized that I was basing the tone of my entire day/week/life on symptoms are were beyond my control, I realized I had given the illness all the power.
Not allowing things beyond your control to impact your mindset is a huge challenge you face with a chronic illness. Easier said than done.
So what are you choosing to wear? The wool of a weak and helpless victim or the armor of a warrior?
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A mindset shift is the biggest challenge you face with a chronic illness.
I know it feels like a big challenge right and I’m not saying that you have to do it all at once. Remember it took me two years before I was ready to change.
You’ll know when you’re ready to transform. I definitely don’t recommend forcing it. You can take it one tiny step at a time, one thought at a time. But until you make the first step, you’ll never start walking towards your happiness.
It’s been a long road but I’ve learned that I can choose to be happy and grateful and pursue my goals every day no matter what my illness is or isn’t doing.
For me, it’s been all about the mindset shift. It
wasn’t isn’t easy but it’s worth it.
Stop telling yourself you can’t because of your illness and start fighting for your dream life, warrior.
Let me know, what’s the biggest challenge you face with a chronic illness?
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