If you constantly question your reality and worry about the future, you are not alone.
Last year I was honoured to be invited to team with The Mighty to write an email newsletter, focusing on dealing with the “What If’s” of Life.
I agreed in the hope my experience of living with a rare progressive disease, along with years managing change, coaching and developing others to embrace challenges and overcome obstacles, would help anyone stuck in the “what ifs” of life.
One of the most regular topics I’m asked about is how do I deal with the “what ifs of life?”
My simple answer is:
I take time to return to the reality of “What Is.”
However, there is nothing simple about it. It’s hard work requiring soul searching and a change of mindset. All of which takes time and patience.
The first step is to actually take time to dwell on your “what if” list. If we don’t do a deep dive into our worries, we can’t begin to work on eradicating them.
Right Now I’m Thinking “What If?”…
When thinking about your future, how would you answer the question, “What if?” ……….
My “What If” questions tend to pop up out of the blue. Questions like:
- “What if my health gets worse in the future?”
- “What if I run out of money?”
- “What if I contract COVID-19?
Plus my most worrying what if…..
- “What if my husband, my full time carer, can no longer care for me?”
A “what if” question could also be a positive one like;
- “What if I wake up in no pain?”
- “What if I get better?”
However, a “what if” question generally ignites our anxieties first, taking us on a scary roller-coaster ride of emotions.
Asking “what if” can be paralyzing, even soul destroying. It can cause you to worry about a future scenario which may never happen. It can cause you to miss out on real joys in your life today.
When you flip a “what if” question into a “what is” statement, your day can change for the better.
I have so many daily disabling challenges, associated with living with a rare bone disease. It’s so easy for me to worry about my future and let the pesky “what if” question run rampant.
Flipping my “What If” worry into a “What Is” statement….
I don’t want to stay on a path of despair, so I know it’s important to take time to think about the positive and tangible side of the “what is”. What’s happening in my life today? Here’s my tangible reality:
●I overcome pain and fatigue every day even when I feel like I don’t;
●I have incredible empathy for others who experience chronic disease;
●I have determination and courage;
●I love life, I cling to it and I find ways daily to enjoy it as best I can…even if it means resting on the bed, enjoying my favourite TV show, or writing a blog post;
●I enjoy the simple things in life and I cherish them. Things like flowers blooming and birds singing. I notice intricate colours in nature and the way the blooms open and close;
●I never take anything for granted;
●I know life can be uncertain but I know change can bring new opportunities;
●I know tough times happen, but I also know the intensity of those times does pass and joy returns.
If you find yourself focusing on a “what if” list of despairs, it’s maybe time to flip it around to a “what is” statement of personal encouragement.
We will all ask “what if?” during the course of our lives. It’s a normal thing to do, but it can also take us down an exhausting black hole of despair. And when you add in health concerns or a disability, it can make the “what ifs” of life even louder.
My reality, my “what is”, is my rare bone disease which causes severe pain due to widespread pathological fractures.
My “what if” concerns, in relation to my disease, always take me to my future of worrying about losing my husband, who is my soulmate and full-time carer. How will I cope if he passes before me? How will I cope if he becomes ill?
Real concerns? Absolutely. But it is not a concern I am facing today. It is not my “what is”.
When I return to today’s reality, he is by my side. I can talk to him about my worries, and together we can work on a plan to safeguard my future in the event I need to live this life without him. I can flip my “what if” worry into a tangible “what is” reality of life. A reality with a loving, caring husband. I can count my blessings today.
If you’re experiencing a season of asking “what if?” and worrying about the future, acknowledge your concerns but stop and focus on “what is”.
We Can Overcome our “What Ifs” in a Practical Way
Here’s a way to help to reframe your thoughts:
1. Write two lists. One with all your “what if” worries and one with your “what is” realities.
2. Look at your “what if” list and cross off all the ones which may never happen. The ones left on the “what if” list can then be transferred to your “what is” list. Make sure the “what is” list includes the positives in your life as well as your current challenges.
3. Now you have one list. A “what is” list with realities you can celebrate, and some real concerns you need to action, so you have a plan in place to mitigate their impact.
As I focus on the reality of having my husband as my full-time carer, rather than worrying about losing him, I can begin to enjoy our relationship, savor it and celebrate it.
I can also calmly focus on my future, and take control of my “what ifs”, by putting plans in place to ensure I have carers organised in case of an emergency.
Writer Corrie ten Boom said…
I hope this helps (even a little),
Take care, Sam x
Medical Musings with Friends
If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding and friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic and complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.
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