All my life I have been the go-to person for advice, support and a listening ear. Lately, I need all those things because I am not as resilient as I used to be. For as long as I can remember, I have been “tough,” but these days, I spend more time being weak. I know that is allowed considering the chaos that my conditions have brought into my life and I know that it is okay to be weak sometimes or to just simply feel sorry for one’s self. It is okay to feel that way because we are all human and we are all still learning how to bend.
I heard Gary Allen on my radio singing “Still Learning How to Bend” on the drive into work today and I realized that I am still learning how to bend. No amount of experience can make you an expert at living with chronic illness but it can teach you how to bend, swerve, and be flexible when life throws you lemons.
As we all know, chronic illness does not always allow us to be in control. Just like the lyrics of the song, “I’m just trying to understand. It is all in someone else’s hands. There’s always a bigger plan but I don’t need to understand.” Sometimes, I feel like I have been hung out to dry with these diseases and that is not a thing I can do about it. Other times, I find my strength in prayer, thinking about the bigger picture, and by leaning on my love for my children.
It doesn’t mean that I have this all figured out – it means I’m still learning to bend. The irony of all this is that I can’t ever remember myself being this weak and I have been through worse. One thing I have never known is how to be weak. I taught myself to be strong even I didn’t have anything left in me to be strong. That is just yet another lesson when living with chronic illness; you have learn to bend to survive and live a life with chronic illness.
Accepting and living with chronic illness takes time, patience and support because its affects are far-reaching. The disease affects you physically, emotionally, socially and in some instances, financially. The way we are affected depends on the nature of the illness, how affects our bodies, how severe it is and gets, and the kind of treatments we take. Time is really the only route to adjusting and accepting the realities of long-term illness.
Being the patient advocate at Arthritis Connect, I sometimes feel like I have to be the strongest person in the room even though I am sure no one expects me to be. Other times, I give myself credit for trying to be the strongest person in the room. Moreover, there are times where I am the strongest person but not every day or every minute or every second. I tell others that it is okay to feel sorry for yourself on occasion, to mourn what you have lost, or even to cry because it hurts so much to be you. Sometimes, I forget to give myself permission to do that and then, I remember that I am human for trying to hold it all together.
The challenges that chronic illness brings to our lives cannot be challenges if we fight back but at the same time, it is okay to not want to fight back one day and to just want to be left alone. It is okay because we are human and if today, we need to feel sorry for ourselves, we should go ahead and do it. We are entitled it because we are all still learning how to bend.
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