Chronically ill and Happy!

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“The individual who says it is not possible should move out of the way of those doing it.”
~ Tricia Cunningham

 

I’m not happy because I have a chronic illness – I’m happy because I still love my life! It’s possible, and in fact I think it’s necessary, to find happiness when life has dealt you a crappy hand. Let me explain…

Those of you who have been following my journey know that I’ve experienced poor health, interspersed with periods of being desperately ill, for my entire adult life. At least I finally have a diagnosis now - late stage lyme disease and a range of other bacterial co-infections that have invaded my brain, bones and organs. Having this undiagnosed illness for over 30 years has been a major challenge, physically and emotionally. And the path to healing for me is a long road too – two and a half to three years of a savage drug regime, coupled with other wholistic modalities, herbs and diet.

Chronic illness and disability is different to your average bout of being unwell, no matter how serious that short duration illness might be. By its very nature chronic illness means that the wallpaper of your life is incapacity, pain and limitation.

I call it wallpaper for a reason. When illness is a one-time short duration event it takes over your life, cuts you down at the knees and takes all your energy and focus until you are well enough to move on.

When you live with illness all the time, or a disability, it becomes like wallpaper. You truly learn not to notice it so much, or you find inventive ways to live with it. You adapt, even if that means shrinking your world down. And if that illness persists for a long period of time, one of the best coping strategies in the world is to keep living as normally as you can DESPITE that illness. Of course, your ‘normal’ may also need to be very different to the ‘normal’ of a healthy person.

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One of the great gifts that has come out of my own illness is an ability to be grateful for the smallest things in life, and to put my focus on them. In that way I can find happiness and satisfaction even on the worst of days. On my best days, life is gloriously normal, and I revel in that normality. I appreciate the sorts of days that healthy folk take for granted.

People with chronic illness or disability can still have a life. We can still have interests and friendships, we can still go on outings or holidays, we can still create things, we can still laugh. In fact we must do these things, or what is left to us?

And that also gives me a great gift to share with you. I’ve found a way to be happy, engaged with life, and to keep working towards my dreams, even with illness and limitation. Oh sure, I have my moments. Days where I can’t get out of bed, days where I am wracked with pain or afflictions that prevent me from doing anything much at all. But there are enough days where I can focus on something positive and good that my life, on balance, is still a source of deep satisfaction to me.

What’s my secret? Gratitude, meditation, learning to appreciate a slower and simpler life, finding joy in a cup of tea, sunshine on my face, a beautiful flower, a well-written book, chats with a friend or a cuddle with my dogs.

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We all experience ups and downs in life. It’s how we deal with those challenges that defines us.

If you’re experiencing physical or emotional challenges, I urge you to find some small positive details where you can muster gratitude, even if only for a moment. These bright points in a dark place can be life-saving, and even life-changing.

If you know someone with a disability or chronic illness, support them in their quest to enjoy life the best they can. I include being old, being a carer, and being a parent of very young children in this category as well.

Everyone copes better when we are included in the fabric of society. Everyone copes better when they have some sun on their face, a friend, an interest, an outing.

Everyone deserves to find happiness.

Corfu Wild Flowers, a bunch

You might find these posts useful too:

On illness and being unreliable

Inviting Stillness…

Real friendship

Finding moments for yourself

How to do Tonglen Meditation – A beginner’s Guide

17 thoughts on “Chronically ill and Happy!

  1. I so agree it’s the small things that do bring joy and happiness when one has the challenges that you have and I have experienced. Gratitude, meditation, sunshine and for me walks on the beach and seeing the gift in everything do make for happiness. There is always something to live for
    You are such an inspiration soul sista xxoo

  2. I can totally relate, and it really is possible to live almost entirely in the silver lining for quite some time. But I know you’ll be feeling better soon, and then maybe you’ll only have to visit it occasionally. In the meantime you are an encouragement to many. Hugs to you! :)

  3. In the midst of chronic illness, of pain and struggle, we get to choose, still, to be happy. To find those moments that remind us of beauty, of gratitude, of peace. What a beautiful sharing.

  4. Yay! :) I’m grateful for your blog, and that’s a beautiful start. I’m grateful for air conditioning, for sure. Living with a propensity to heat illness, and an auto-immune disfunction (not disease), is rough-going for an active person, but like you said, my “normal” may be different from other’s “normal,” and I am learning to live with that.

    I take ice packs with me and wet towels to cool down. I’ve learned cooling foods to eat, and ones to boost my electrolytes as I continually re-hydrate throughout the day. I’ve become so invested in my health that my life has grown much richer, fuller, more positive, and I am slowly becoming happier as a result. I’m grateful for all the blessings that being not-as-well-as-I’d-like has surprisingly afforded me. Thank you for helping me to realize that.
    Peace and Love,
    Mia

  5. Reading this could not come at a more perfect time for me. For months I have been dealing with chronic health issues that have affected every aspect of my life. It has been frustrating, to say the least, to have my life turned upside-down, to try to remember all of my many blessings. Some days it is easier than others to remember them. It is nice to get the reminder to adjust to how things are, not how they were or how you want them to be, and to take life as it comes. Thanks.

  6. Dear Dear Nicole if only you knew what a comfort it is to read your blog . I suffer with an emotional prob ,social phobia , that would rob me of the normality of life if I let it . I don’t let it . Today I am sitting in my garden under a bight blue English sky …feeling free . Thank you for your words …stay healthy .
    stars and moon Cherry and snoring Oscar (DOG) X

  7. I read this with my first cup of coffee and was so moved. I do not have the severity of your illness, but I too have to cope with chronic illness. Born with Raynaud’s Disease, no-one knew why I lost the use of my hands and feet, why I dropped things, or fell, or why my hands and feet went white than black in the slightest difference of temperature, later as a result I developed osteo-arthritis. But, I learnt to cope with meditation, and then studying psychology to cope with social phobia arising from these conditions. Now I enjoy life to the full, that cup of coffee is a pleasure, walking with my dog another The sun and the winter’s day are both a treasure to me. And most of all, is the pleasure and joy of writing. So thank you for your wonderful post, it is inspiring and uplifting. God bless and may you continue to enjoy your health.

  8. An amazing and encouraging post — I never thought about it as wallpaper — but I like it. That is exactly what I have done, and didn’t realize! :D

    I can relate as well, when we first moved into our 120 yr old house — I HATED the wallpaper in the dining room, but it was in the best shape and we deemed it would be the last room … in the meantime, I decorated the room as if the wallpaper didn’t clash — and after a short-while I no longer noticed it. I know it’s still there, but it doesn’t cause me angst. One day we really will get around to changing it out! LOL :D

  9. This is really beautiful – honest, real. As usual. Yes, this is how it is — with anything that is “chronic”. I see folks in counseling and for some of them, their illnesses are chronic. AND they aren’t going away. We ALL have a choice — our happiness is a choice. It doesn’t come through fighting the illness or the disease. It comes from loving ourselves. Wallpaper and all! Thank you for this post today. It empowers folks. It uplifts. Love, Lisa

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