While my sister was here, she commented that since my diagnoses, I am not as confident as I used to be. She said that even though I still have goals and plans, I often stop and question my abilities or whether I am wasting my time. She is absolutely right that I have gone from being confident in my capabilities to being doubtful of my abilities.
Chronic illness for any sufferer means that life is no longer normal. In fact, I often feel that “normal” is not part of my mental dictionary. It does not help when you feel like you are walking into a dark forest where the trails are all different and the darkness means you can barely see in front of you. Some trails are easy and others are not. Life with chronic illness is like that; sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is downright difficult. In addition to being difficult, it is often unpredictable. You can go from having a productive day to spending the following day in bed.
It is easy to be doubtful when you life has completely changed. You have to make choices about your goals that are different than the ones you were considering prior to being sick. If anything, it is an emotional rollercoaster and keeping your emotions in check isn’t easy. I am not saying that I don’t think that I can still be successful but it is harder to believe in myself when my body is telling me to constantly rest.
I doubt my abilities as a parent, and that is something I would not have done two years ago. When I decided to continue on with my master’s degree, I was not as sick as I am today. I started and I had specific goals in mind but now, it is a question of WHEN and IF I will have it complete. I am about six months from completion but instead focusing of the goal at hand, I am counting the days. I am constantly contemplating about whether I should even stay in the legal field despite all my hard work and progress. It is a whirlwind of doubt that chronic illness patients feel.
The truth is I know that am capable, but I don’t always know how able I am. Some mornings, I move with haste and very little pain. Other mornings, like today, people in their 70s and 80s move faster than me. These are the days I feel most doubtful. My husband comments how much I rush to get things done while he takes his time and does things when he is ready to do them. He says that I am rushing a 100 miles per hour into a brick wall and that I need to take a step back and slow down. What he fails to understand is that if I don’t just keep going I might quit.
There is no question that chronically ill patients doubt themselves because of physical inability. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that my RA can go into remission and my fibromyalgia is manageable. It does not mean that my doubts don’t linger especially when I (and others) expect me to be better. While do I know is I am capable, when I am flaring I forget that I am able.
I don’t want to question myself. I don’t want to question my abilities, professionally or personally. What I want is for these diseases to just disappear. I am not talking about remission, however. I want to wake up one day and hear that my diagnoses were a mistake and what I have is curable. Isn’t that the wish of every person who suffers from chronic illness? You would think that as smart as I am will wish for remission or a cure. No, I want to this to be a mistake. I am even laughing at myself so feel free to do so.
Pity parties really suck don’t they? They are part of living with chronic illness. Sometimes, I have to stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I would still be working just as hard if I was not sick. Those of who are sick want to remember what it was like before we were sick. We want to remember a time when we didn’t feel tired or in pain. The problem with looking back is that it forces us to stop looking at the present and from moving out of the past. At the same token, however, looking back is important because it shows up that we have not really changed. The only thing that has changed is that we are sick.
When I feel well, I am motivated to take on the world. I am often told that even on the days I am sick, I accomplish more than most healthy people do. I am not sure how much of that I believe but I do have a lot going on my life.
I remember when I was first diagnosed, I was very scared and the pain was so bad I wanted to die. I remember telling sister and my husband things like, “if anything happens to me…” or “I am not sure how much more I can take.” Now, that I have gone through all the self-pity I can handle, I continue to look towards the future but yet reflect upon the past. I have changed – no question there. Sometimes, I am doubtful and scared and other times, I am determined and confident. What I still have to do is focus on my career and on being a parent and for both those reasons, my being successful and confident all comes together.
Truth be told, I have been dealt some difficult cards, but I have also been dealt some great opportunities. I have learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses, but above all, I have learned to love myself and to take care of myself more than I ever did in the past.
Today is the last day to enter to win Susan E. Ingebretson’s book: FibroWHYalgia: Why Rebuilding the Ten Root Causes of Chronic Illness Restores Chronic Wellness.