I had an interesting and ultimately encouraging conversation with a friend today. I said, for perhaps the 20th time “I just feel like I have no life. I am at home often, managing health issues from sun up to sun down, and I feel like that basically sums up my life. At times I don’t even know how to talk to people anymore if it isn’t about health stuff, and I hate it. I don’t want to be like that.”
My friend Rachel, who knows more about my health and life issues than possibly anyone else, began a very helpful monologue. I needed a “talking to.” She explained that I do actually have a life and a ministry, even though its not what *I* had planned for myself.
“I love talking to you because you tell such great stories about how you see God working in your life and how you have been involved with reaching out to other people. Your stories are often funny too. Don’t downplay what you have been able to do! Its a lie to say you don’t have a life, and its a way Satan can try to discourage you. You bring Mike to church every week, you teach him life skills he hasn’t learned, you take Mary and Mike to the grocery store, you sit and talk to Charles, you send long email responses back to people who email you from all across the globe who have contacted you looking for support regarding gutsy problems…and you do it all even though you are more often than not in significant pain. You are at a point now where you are trying to find a balance with all these things in life, knowing that you can’t talk about it or think about it ALL the time, and that’s a good place to be – that’s where you are growing. A lot of people really care about you and you miss some significant things God has done and is doing in your life and those around you when you disregard and fail to talk about these other parts of your life. They aren’t insignificant. You have been on SCD and fighting to win the war with your guts for over a year and a half (longer if you count pre-SCD battles) and despite all the energy, pain, and hard work you’ve put into that, you still always have taken time for other people. Before you knew Mike, you were friends with JR and that took a LOT of energy. And that was while you were very sick too. You spend time with people even when you know its going to cost you – it may cost you rest, you may be hurting so much you are trying to make it through a conversation and pay attention or wondering if you can continue the conversation without excusing yourself. But you do it. There is a lot of fight left in you, and in some ways I think its even stronger now than its ever been.”
I needed the correction and the pep talk. Rachel encouraged me to talk about these aspects of my “real life” more with friends and online. I had come up against a writers block for my http://www.NaturallyGutsy.com blog, and Rachel encouraged me to write more about how life moves on even when you have a super long list of hard diagnoses, how I still stay active in spite of the challenges.
As she talked, I realized that this very thing is the next step in my healing. Its been a consuming year and a half dealing with tough health issues. No, its been a consuming 10 years dealing with tough health issues!!! Who am I kidding? Lol. Though I have another whole ball of wax to bounce around with my new diagnosis of CRPS, and that too feels utterly consuming, I know it may become less consuming in time as I learn to fight and manage it more appropriately.
In fact, when I started SCD a year and a half ago, I didn’t really think I would get to the place I’m at now. I mean, God and http://www.SCDLifestyle.com have brought me gut freedom I’ve never had before, I’ve learned to really cook great meals now, and I am healthier in mind and body generally than I’ve ever been. SCD isn’t so stressful to me now. I know my allowed foods by heart, and I also have a solid base for my super safe foods which I can fall back on when the gut gets wonky. So while its still a significant amount of work on my part with frequent marathon cooking days and planning ahead, SCD is freeing rather than stressful to me. I don’t hate my kitchen nearly as much. My attitudes towards and about food are much more positive and most of the time I look forward to eating. Couldn’t have said that a year ago! Gut pain is mostly controlled.
Before my CRPS flare, I was doing well at getting out more, being more active, and doing lots of thing I had not done in AGES (roller skating while using my rolling walker, for example!). My setbacks now are more often CRPS related than gut related. And if it wasn’t for the CRPS, I would still be doing more nowadays.
I do have a mountain to climb with the CRPS diagnosis. I need to tackle it just like I’ve tackled taking charge of my gut. So in its way it will be more work than gain for a good while, just as my gut was. But eventually I might get back to that happy place where I’m able to do more in the future. One never knows.
But in either case, I think Rachel is right – one of the main goals to achieving health while still responsibly managing these diseases is to be grateful to God for what I do have in life by properly recognizing its significance. This next step in my healing is more mental, spiritual, than it is physical. And yet its these mental and spiritual changes which I believe can have the greatest impact on our physical wellbeing (think of the connection between stress and physical illness!). I do believe its possible for us as gutsy people to continue to live healthy lifestyles with our minds, bodies, and relationships as we put forth the extra effort it takes to achieve what is most important to us. The fact that we do try itself is a testimony to others of the human spirit and God’s life-giving power.
For me, I choose to put significant energy into relationships and taking time to be there for people. I’m also looking into some new ways to use my creative talents to drive my disability-adjusted career goals.
When life throws a curve ball, we adapt. We move on, doing what we must to take responsibility for those things which are naturally ours to manage. We keep choosing what is important, what we will fight for, and we commit to it, grabbing the bull by the horns and pushing forward come rain, snow, sleet, hail, or falling pianos. When another curve ball comes, we repeat the process by adapting again. That’s life.
I would love to know how you think about your new and different life post-diagnosis or post-SCD. Are you tempted to feel like you don’t have a life? What are you using as your definition of “having a life”? What meaningful activities can you engage in or recognize you are already doing so that you can more healthfully appreciate your life?