When something becomes difficult to do, do you quit or modify how you do it?
I struggled to accept that I needed to change how I did things for the first 13 years of living with fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, endometriosis, and coccydynia. All I wanted to do was to go on with my life the way I had and not have to figure out a new way to live. Let’s get real, even life without a painful chronic illness can be difficult, but throw in an incurable injury or illness and it can be enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel. My first instinct when I would discover that I was unable to do something the way I did it before becoming chronically ill was to give up. The sad part is that if I had prepared myself to embrace change, I wouldn’t have missed out on so much during those years.
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I hear so many people say that they can’t do this or they had to give up that just because they couldn’t do it like they did before their illness or injury. But when asked if they tried doing it differently, they became defensive. They shut down by saying that we have no right to suggest anything because we don’t understand what they are going through. My favorite excuse is that doing something differently isn’t the same. Well, duh!! Sorry, but seriously, I have done and said both. How dare anyone suggest that I hadn’t given it my all before giving up, but if I were to tell the truth, they would be right. I didn’t try hard enough and I am willing to bet that many others haven’t either.
I was a quitter. Chronic pain had made doing everything so difficult that I couldn’t see alternative options. Even when set in front of me, I hesitated to try them. My illnesses had won control over my life. Does that sound familiar? Are you instinctively saying no or dismissing new ideas because you are tired of having everything you do increase your pain level? I refused to accept that doing things differently could be as satisfying, even though the end result would be the same. What I didn’t realize is that by doing things differently, I would still have the same outcome in regards to the task, but I wouldn’t have had the extra pain that doing it the way I used to caused. But I was so terrified of increasing my pain, that I refused to even consider trying.
Like the gazillion posts I see daily on social media, I too was bitter and angry about having to give up doing things that I loved. I was furious that I couldn’t exercise, go out, travel, care for my family, or work like I used to. To avoid listening to other’s suggestions, I stopped taking their calls, answering the door, and even began taking extended social media breaks. Yet, if I had just put my anger, resentment, jealousy (yep, that is something many of us in the chronic community don’t want to admit, but many are or were jealous of those who can do what we used to do), and had opened my mind and ears, I might have began to realize that life can be good and be different at the same time.
In the past 7 years I have learned that it is okay to do things differently. These lessons have made my life one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. My hope is that it won’t take you reaching the point that I did (ready to commit suicide) to realize that change is okay. I am not saying that you should be jumping for joy because now your chronic illnesses and pain are making you overhaul your entire life, but to not allow it to become a darkness that takes possession of your mind.
Here is a quick and far from full list of modifications that have made living with my chronic diseases easier and less painful:
- I began asking for help
- I found ways to work from home
- I have groceries delivered when unable to go shopping
- I used the mobile carts in stores when walking was painful
- To this day I utilize mobility aids FYI: Disneyland is just as much fun in a wheelchair or with a rollator as it is without!
- Do most of my shopping online (why waste energy that could be better spent at the beach or Disneyland?)
- Accept that my exercise goals and the form I participate in need to be flexible.
- Accept that exercise is not optional, but necessary!
- Allow my body to dictate my schedule for most days.
- Tried alternative and natural pain relief treatments
- I stopped fighting my body and began treating it like someone I loved.
There was and is nothing easy about anything I have done or currently do. Living with one or multiple chronic illnesses is hard, but the hard work pays off! Without modifications, I would be back where I was before, at home, alone, and in excruciating pain. Although I would have argued this point 7 years ago, not changing how you live is the easy way. It is more painful, depressing, and aggravating, but it doesn’t require any work. Making modifications to make living with your chronic illness and/or pain easier requires patience, persistence, and positive attitude. Most of the modifications I made have decreased my daily pain levels as well as decreased the frequency and severity of my flares. The rest have made my life easier, which has resulted in less stress, which doesn’t increase my pain.
Are you ready to give up or are you ready to embrace the challenge of finding a new way to live? I have some good news for you! You are not alone! While not always easy to find, especially in the chronic community, there are others who aren’t wallowing in self-pity. I invite you to join my Facebook groups that are filled with members who like you want to thrive and not just survive. Another resource is my eBook Make Pain Your Bitch: How to Dominate Your Chronic Life. It won’t cure you, but it will help you recognize areas of your life that require modification and challenge you to make those changes. Click here to order your copy today.