Maintaining hope is a matter of discipline. Hope isn’t not magically bestowed upon you. It’s not something packaged in the form of the latest prescription your doctor wants you to try. You can’t purchase it from your neighbourhood 24-7 pharmacy. You learned it from someone somewhere at some point in your life, oftentimes in childhood. Hope is a skill. As such, the old adage of use it or lose it applies to it as well. This is especially true if you have a chronic illness.
Having a chronic illness isn’t the end of the world, although it may feel like it. To be blunt, it sucks to have a chronic illness. However, in the difficulties that having any illness can bring, there is wisdom and compassion to be gained. Still, being constantly ill or never knowing when next illness will strike can create feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, which can lead to or may signal depression. In fact, despite being a mental health counselor and expressive therapist, I have felt hopeless and helpless at various points in my illness–a good portion of it being related to having to redefine my self-concept, rather than the illness itself.
I found that the more I refused to let go of what/who I was, the more frustrated and sad I became. However, each time I conceded to a limitation and took steps to adjust to it, I felt freer and more hopeful. As I have written many times, chronic illnesses take away many things from you, but they also give something to you. Whether or not you choose to understand that there is a gift (or gifts) is up to you.
Chronic illnesses, as much as they can create havoc in your life, they also can make things really simple, especially decisions. Still, you have to see through the chaos of your symptoms (physical and mental) to the clarity of your will. To help myself see beyond the difficulty of the any moment related to my fibromyalgia, I ask myself the following question:
Will I allow my illness to devour me?
The answer is always no. I refuse to be held hostage to my illness. Like all other things about myself that I cannot change, I have accepted that my illness is a part of me. I don’t need to focus on changing it. I need to focus on living with it, learning from it, and moving beyond it. This is how I maintain a hopeful attitude about my life and my illness.
I no longer see my illness as something I need to or can fix. If the experts come up with something definitive in the future that will alleviate me of my illness, then great. Otherwise, I choose to focus on making peace with having fibromyalgia, rather than fighting it. In those moments when I am feeling my worst, I choose to focus on how my illness is helping me, rather than how it may be hindering me.
My hope is grounded in the belief that I can live successfully with fibromyalgia, regardless of what it takes away…because I believe it always gives me something in return. Because of this belief, I also know that I can and will always find a way to help myself, even if the way is not immediately shown to me. I suppose what I’ve learned is that
Hope is about riding the waves of uncertainty…with a keen sense of direction. 😉
Check out this post by a fellow Wordpress blogger: When Chronic Illness Causes Depression