(An Excerpt From Chapter Three of My Book, My Medical Musings, A Story of Love, Laughter, Faith and Hope: Living with a Rare Disease)
Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like, and celebrating it for everything that it is” –Mandy Hale
What an insightful quote! There is so much simplicity to it, yet it is full of depth and wisdom.
When we live with Chronic Illness, it’s very easy to fall into a pattern of continually thinking about all the things disease has taken from us. A vicious cycle can quickly develop, robbing us of any hope of happiness.
Yes, life is tough.
Yes, our diseases can be overwhelming and debilitating.
Yes, our life has to change dramatically to adapt.
Yes, our dreams and goals may need to change entirely.
Acknowledge The Loss
I truly believe we can hold onto the hope of being happy in our chronic illness life, if we first acknowledge all of the above, plus many more emotional and physical hurdles unique to our own situation.
Once we’ve gone through the process of acknowledging the reality of our situation, in all it’s rawness, it’s time to take the next step.
It’s the most important step….. the step where we determine we won’t let our diseases rob us of happiness.
It’s really ok to feel happy, even in the midst of pain and illness.
It’s ok to feel the depths of our loss while still feeling joy.
Happiness has many layers. It can come from success, from good news, from making exciting plans.
I’m not really talking about this kind of happiness. I’m talking about happiness which comes from being content.
“Contentment is a peaceful kind of happiness in which one rests without desires, even though every wish may not have been gratified”:Dictionary.com
This view of happiness, the peaceful contented kind, is exactly the sort of happiness we can achieve when chronic disease places so many of life’s usual “pleasures” out of reach
“Resting without desires“. These are the words dictionary. com uses to describe contentment and these words are key.
When we focus on desires out of our reach it’s likely we’ll be feeling discontent. When we focus on things we can do and create desires and goals within our capability, we can feel content. We can even feel happiness begin to bubble from within.
I’ve been really unwell with worsening disability over the past 24 months. I’ve been in and out of hospital, had three spinal surgeries, each three months apart, multiple foot fractures and a seriously unstable lumbar spine continuously causes worsening mobility issues. My fatigue has been out of control, I’m now anaemic and I’m dealing with female baldness.
Aside from medical appointments or hospital stays, I have rarely been out of the house for years. I currently can only be transported anywhere by ambulance. With COVID putting such high demand on our ambulance and health services, I am doing everything I can to cope at home.
I’m not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me or to gain sympathy. Far from it.
I know it creates quite a miserable picture, especially if it’s the end of this blog post.
Peacefully Happy Despite It All
It’s not the end though. It’s the beginning of what I want to share.
Despite all the challenges and hurdles, I’m generally happy, I’m content. I’m at peace.
Four months ago I was in hospital, for a lengthier stay than expected, as my lumbar spine collapsed onto a cluster of nerves and I had a sacral fracture. I couldn’t walk, sit upright or stand. While I would have loved to go home, my stay was full of happy moments.
I had difficult moments as my pain overwhelmed me at times, but I had moments of laughing with my husband and friends who came to visit. I enjoyed chatting online with family and other friends far and wide.
I enjoyed reading other bloggers stories and sharing their work.
I loved writing, even if I only managed a little re-editing.
Once home, I enjoyed watching the birds in the garden while having afternoon tea on our pretty patio.
Let Go Of What You Think Life “Should Be”
Let go of what you think your life should look like. Take time to think about what you can change in your current circumstances to create a different life. What kind of life works with your chronic illness and allows you to feel content? Strive for contentment and a feeling of peaceful happiness.
We don’t need to feel euphoric happiness to be happy. A peaceful happiness is longer lasting. Contentment can remain constant even on difficult days.
We will always have tough, difficult days with chronic illness. Chronic means continuous. It’s not going away. Accepting this is so important if we want to reach a state of contentment with our new life.
When we continue to focus on the “normal life ” society bombard our minds with through social media, TV, magazines etc we will never find contentment. We will simply find ourselves looking into a very dark hole.
Even following our friends and their “normal” lives on Facebook can leave us empty, especially if we still feel we should keep up with their outings and adventures.
Remember behind the “FB smiles” and “Pin perfect” photos, often lies people unhappy and discontent with life, while pretending all is well.
We don’t need to pretend. It’s obvious all is not well with us. There is something quite freeing about our situation if you think about it in this way.
Our “normal” is always going to be different but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.
It doesn’t matter how others define a happy life…..it matters how you define it.
We only have one life, one opportunity to live as well as possible. Let’s carve out a unique life. Thinking outside the box can be incredibly adventurous.
For those of us with chronic disease we can spend it bemoaning what’s been taken from us or, we can spend it finding ways to “enjoy it for everything it is”
We are alive and it’s an amazing gift. Life is short for everyone. Making the most of moments is all any of us can really do, the healthy and unhealthy alike.
Don’t waste our precious moments of life feeling discontent. While we can’t change our physical circumstances, we can choose to look after our mental health.
Some people may need professional help to find ways to focus on becoming content and that’s ok. Speak to your GP/PCP as a starting point to get help.
Some of us will be in a position to more easily, deliberately choose our attitude and make changes to our life on our own. Embrace the challenge to change your thinking. You won’t be disappointed.
I so hope, wherever you are in your journey of adjusting to a chronic illness life, you will soon arrive at a place of peaceful contentment.
Don’t lose hope!
Phillipians chapter 4 v 11-13 (NIV)
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
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.
My book “My Medical Musings”, is published by Imaginewe Publishers and available now to purchase as a paperback or e-book.
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I’m also a Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page
I also write @ Blogs by Christian Women