One of my worst fears is that my health will deteriorate to the point where my primary goal in life is to survive, not thrive. I fear that my world will become smaller and smaller, until all I see and can handle is myself and what is immediately in front of me. This is more than an uneasiness or worry I have; it is a gut-wrenching, borderline-panic-attack causing fear. With every passing year and sacrifice I make for my health, I fear that my world will shrink to past the point of no return.
This post was very difficult to write because it is a topic that is deeply personal to me and the people I love. It is also something I struggle with every time I have to make a lifestyle change or didn’t get the news I was hoping for. Hear my heart when I say that I am truly and deeply sorry that this is your reality. I have cried those same tears for myself and people I care about. I sincerely believe you were created to thrive, not to simply to survive. With that said, this is an open letter to those with a shrinking world caused by chronic illness:
As we all have undoubtedly quickly learned, the challenging part of regaining your health and overall wellness is the sacrifices and lifestyle changes that are required. In the beginning, the sacrifices are challenging, but at least they seem reasonable. Perhaps you removed gluten because it is an inflammatory food. Maybe you incorporated epsom salt baths to support detoxification. You might have even taken steps to reduce stress. These are changes and sacrifices that are not incredibly difficult to understand.
However, eventually the sacrifices catch up to you, and, even though you are a pro at adapting at this point, each one seems a little bit harder to do than the last. You’ve already done the all obvious treatments and typical lifestyle changes, but it doesn’t seem to be enough since the improvements, if there are any, have not been drastic.
You’ve given a lot already. You’ve likely forgone outings and social opportunities. You are probably the friend who dictates what restaurant everyone goes to, if you can even eat out. Maybe you avoid certain stores because the smell is too overwhelming. Perhaps you have a stash of supplements in your car or in a bag just in case of an emergency. You may even repetitively think about when to take supplement(s) on an empty stomach during the day.
This is the point when the next sacrifice feels crushing, even when you are desperate for a solution. Your world has already changed drastically, yet your body and health demands you give more. As much as you may not want to, you also know that you need to take that next step. However, the next step pulls your world in even tighter and you wonder when it will stop. When will you stop giving and giving and giving of yourself? Moreover, once you stop, will you even recognize what you have left?
If no one has said this to you before, it is okay to be upset and angry with the situation because it is hard and it is not fair. While these sacrifices are hard and a shrinking world is terrifying, life would be even harder and your health would be worse if you decided to give up and let the struggle overtake you. It’s okay to not always have positive outlook or attitude. It is even okay to feel like you don’t have any fight left in you. However, what is not okay is to dwell and stay in that place of debilitating anger and bitterness forever. Eventually, you have get up and keeping moving forward – even if that means intentionally shrinking your world for the time being.
It is about the (hopefully) short-term losses for the long-term gains. Your world will expand and grow once again. Keep getting back up and doing what it takes, no matter how hard.