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3March 16, 2010Persevering through chronic illness means having an open mind

Posted Mar 16 2010 12:00am

Living with a chronic condition is like carrying around a giant weight on your shoulders on daily basis. Furthermore, regardless of the type of condition you have, you will have to slow down and make lifestyle changes in order to carry that weight around. The problem with living with a chronic condition is that you find yourself traveling through a complicated maze where there are more questions than answers and finding your way requires patience, dedication and endurance.

My journey with chronic illness started in the mid to late 1990s even through I did not receive a diagnosis for the havoc going on inside of me until two years ago. The pain become daily and it has altered my life. The days got more challenging and I had to change courses because even though I was going one way, my conditions were sending me another. For me, healing was more than just a physical component and I have been left a variety of emotions as a result. Fear, denial, optimism, frustration, numbness, and skepticism all come to into play when dealing with the maze of chronic illness. In the end, I found that an open mind is the only way to persevere.

The wake up call does not come when you are looking answers but in fact, after you have found them. If you cannot keep an open mind, you are going to be yourself losing a difficult battle that ends before it even starts. On a daily basis, an open mind means finding new and creative ways to adapt your condition to your life. It may involve things like a less strenuous exercise routine or physical therapy regimen, figuring what foods aggravate or lessen your symptoms, changing your work schedule or your work environment, and recognizing that there are different approaches to accomplishing health and lifestyle goals.

You should also keep an open mind about your healthcare options. Further, researching your conditions and finding support and answers with people who know and understand what you are going through will give you a map for getting through the maze that has now become your life.

Not having an open mind will only make you miserable and it is not a trap you want to fall into. Having open mind involves avoiding the following:

• Not being critical of yourself. You cannot control what has happened nor can you turn back time. You will never be able to do things the way you did before so do yourself a favor and let go of the sadness and anger and focus on feeling better.
• Trying to control things you cannot control. Control what you can: your feelings and your emotions, your lifestyle, and your healthcare options.
• Being emotionless. Humor and gratitude go a long way. These things play an important role in the healing process and not having them will only pull you down.
• Not taking time for yourself. You come first and not putting yourself first will only make you miserable. Do everyone else around you a favor and avoid this misery making process.
• Not taking responsibility for your healthcare. I have said this repeatedly. Be your own advocate because no one else is going to do this for you. Find out all you can about your condition including treatments and the latest research.
• Dwelling. You can choose to dwell day in and day out but the only thing that will accomplish is make you miserable and everyone else around you. Personally, I take the “it’s okay to have a quick and once in a while pity party, but get over it quick” approach.
• Isolating yourself. Find support and the internet is a great place for that. Connecting with online support groups and others who understand your struggles will keep you sane.
• Not imagining future. Keep looking to the future no matter what. Think about the things and the people that matter to you and keep looking up. Michael J. Fox wrote an amazing book about looking up and it is advice to heed.

“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” Michael J. Fox
“When prescribing one of the drugs I take, my doctor warned me of a common side effect: exaggerated, intensely vivid dreams. To be honest, I’ve never really noticed the difference. I’ve always dreamt big.” Michael J. Fox

For me, I have spent a lot of time being sick, but a lot less time dwelling. I am not saying that it wasn’t easy, but once I realized that acceptance was the only way to live a normal life, I accepted my conditions in my life and learned to live with them and not against them. I also learned that an open mind was my only defense because living with a chronic illness impacts one’s physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. It causes person to feel helpless and hopeless. It can devastate a career and ruin financial security. It can also ruin relationships and one’s peace of mind. Keeping an open mind is important in the short-term and the long-term. It will keep you active, social and productive – not to mention sane. Chronic illness may close some doors for us but it will also open others as I am slowly learning.  It might even to take you to places you never thought it would.

“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.” Philipus Aureolus Paracelsus
“The open mind never acts: when we have done our utmost to arrive at a reasonable conclusion, we still – must close our minds for the moment with a snap, and act dogmatically on our conclusions” George Bernard Shaw

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