Life certainly hasn’t turned out the way I intended, to say the least. And in the beginning, when I was sickest, I was angry and full of pain and disappointment over getting sick. I had a difficult time seeing through the haze of loss and resentment to realize that I still had choices left in life. Maybe not the choices I wanted, but choices nonetheless. As I moved through the stages of grief and guilt and pain, slowly I stopped looking back at the life “I lost” and began to slowly embrace the life I still have and how I want to live it. This doesn’t mean I don’t cry, feel sorry for myself occasionally or get frustrated. What it does mean is that every day I still get a choice in how I live my best life. Sick or not sick. And mostly that means making the most of every day and still feeling grateful for the many Blessings I do have.
As such, I wanted to pass on my ten top tips for living an “actual life” with Chronic Illness:
- Practice Gratitude. Each and every day, every moment. I’m grateful for so many Blessings. Sometimes, I thank God I didn’t get as sick as we thought I would. I’m immeasurably grateful to have a family. I’m grateful when the pain stops. I’m grateful that I have dogs that make my life better. Focus on gratitude and all you do have, instead of what you don’t.
- Forgive yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it 100 more times. I think I need to constantly hear it, myself. Illness isn’t an option. I didn’t choose this path for myself or my family. Constantly focusing on being angry with yourself is just unhelpful and unproductive. Time to let it go (or start trying!).
- Learn to live in the moment. Stop, take a deep breath and relish this moment. You’re never going to have it back again. If in this moment you’re in pain, it will pass. If you are feeling good, embrace it.
- Reach out to help someone else. Helping someone who needs our help reminds us why we’re here and that we still have tons to offer. At my absolute lowest, we rescued and adopted my Schnauzer, Oliver. Every single day since then, Oliver has rescued me back. What you put out in kindness, you will get back tenfold, I do truly believe that.
- Celebrate every accomplishment. Because dwelling on what you can’t do or haven’t gotten done is unhelpful.
- Eliminate toxins. This starts with toxic people; toxic food, toxic workplace, toxic household chemicals. Ditch people that are unsupportive or diminishing. Try to eat non GMO and/or Organic. Switch nasty household cleaners for vinegar and lemon. Toxins are poisonous and your body already has a big enough fight ahead of it!
- Do something you love each and every day. When I feel well enough, we walk our dogs and I really love it. Whether it’s reading, taking a walk, visiting with a friend or calling someone you love. Always make time to do what you love.
- Establish goals that are achievable. This is the first year, I think since getting sick, that I decided to establish some goals for myself. The key is to not admonish yourself if those goals need to be fluid or change. Setting and achieving goals give life a purpose and purpose is critical to quality of life.
- Be kind. Being sick isn’t easy. Being supportive of your illness isn’t easy either. Be kind to the people you love. Be kind to people you don’t know.
- Meditate. I can’t tell you how many Providers I have seen that stress this. And I really struggle, alot, with meditation. The thing about meditation is that it is also customizable. Instead of sitting in silence and trying to quiet my mind, I do Reiki. Try coloring or listening to music.
Living with chronic illness can sometimes feel like an insurmountable challenge. It can be fraught with anxiety, fear and depression, on top of feeling terrible. The changes to our approach can’t solve what we’re sick with, but it can make it so “being sick” isn’t all that we are.
Just for today:
I will not worry
I will not be angry
I will be grateful
I will do "my work" honestly
I will be kind to every living thing
(The principles of Reiki)