What if you never had fibromyalgia? How would you have lived your life up until this moment? What dreams would you have already fulfilled? Better still, who would you have created yourself to be?
Here’s the deal, regardless of whatever your chronic illness is, there are likely many questions like the ones above that you have asked or are actively asking yourself right this very minute. It’s human nature to wonder about the possibilities, especially when it comes to your own life (and if you aren’t wondering, please, ask yourself why). Maintaining our curiosity, that element of wonder, about ourselves and our the world around is key to making any significant change in the way we live. When we shut ourselves down and shut out the world, we are essentially denying ourselves access to the power that subjective and objective knowledge can bring to furthering our self-understanding. And increasing self-understanding means increasing our ability to achieve self-mastery.
When we think of self-mastery, we may think of complete control of the self, i.e. control of thought which leads to control of actions, which means better ability to respond (not react) effectively to the world around us. Simply put, self-mastery, self-understanding, and self-awareness go hand in hand, best summarized by this quote:
Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
If you have fibromyalgia, then you know that one of the first thing you lose is control. You lose control over your body and your mind.
The physical activities that you used to do with ease now prove difficult. The memory that you once prided yourself on now has sticky notes all over it marked fibro fog. That’s just the way it is. There’s no shame in it. Having fibromyalgia means 1) losing control over the physical vehicle that transports who you are (body), and 2) losing control over the mental vehicle that relays your who you are to the world around you and to yourself (mind). Of course, the severity of the loss depends of the severity of your fibromyalgia…and your engagement in self-care.
You’re Not Broken, Just Different
Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not believe in regret. Truly, I don’t. I believe in lessons learned. I think regretting your life, in any shape or form, does not help you to move forward from wherever you are, especially when you have a chronic illness. The fact is the past is in the past. Yesterday is already the past. And today will be the past quite soon. So, here are the only questions that you need to ask yourself today:
What step(s) will I take to move my life forward today?
What step(s) have I taken to move my life forward today?
They are really simple questions with big implications. They imply choice.
You did not have a choice in having fibromyalgia. You do have a choice in whether or not you will allow it to control your life. Although you may feel broken, unwanted, used up, without purpose, or simply helpless, you are not.
You are not broken. You are different.
The person you knew yourself to be is in the past, along with yesterday and all the days before that. The high points and the low points of that person is gone. Keep her or him in your memory with fondness, but do not dwell. Like how you may think fondly upon your teenage self or child self, think so upon who you were. But get excited about who you are and who you are crafting yourself to be.
Remember how when you were a teenager or a child, you couldn’t wait to see what type of adult you would be? Perhaps you became that adult, perhaps not. Either way, it’s time now to tap into the curiosity, to apply today that wonder that you had about the unknown you. It’s time to tell yourself that there is nothing to fear in being someone you don’t know or cannot yet imagine.
This is the first step in reinventing yourself: getting to know the new you.
How do you do this? Ask yourself the first question I proposed above (What step(s) will I take to move my life forward today?), then take the quote above as inspiration: watch your thoughts. Listen for an answer. What does your new self want to do? Be curious about that self. Work to understand that self. Be kind to that self.
Look out for Part 3: The Naysayers & Other Emotional Vampires
Read Part 1: Reinventing Yourself After Losing Everything