You may be thinking “Has she gone mad?” or “She clearly has never been doubled in pain for hours on end!”, well, the answer is no I’m not mad and yes I’ve had my fair share of painfully traumatic experiences.
The truth is this, living with a chronic illness that prevents you from doing everyday activities can be a challenge and both physically and mentally draining. Sometimes it’s much easier to be a pessimist than an optimist. It took me years to realise that being positive could actually improve my relationships with family and friends but it could also improve my symptoms. As those of you reading this might not follow me, I have suffered with severe chronic constipation which is a symptoms of a number of factors related to my digestion, such as IBS, colonic inertia and low serotonin levels; to name a few. From a child I was pretty much alone dealing with this and as a result was quite an insular child. Nowadays, most of my old friends don’t recognise me. I refused to let this tiresome and harrowing illness define me and who I was so I changed my environment. I wanted to go somewhere I could experience positivity and sunshine everyday, rich in culture to pull my mind away from focusing and dwelling on every niggling little thing wrong with me, I wanted to meet interesting people and become a stronger person so I choose Thailand. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m not saying that everyone who needs to surpass their negative situations needs to relocate, this is just what I knew would work for me. So here I’ve put together some positives for living with a chronic illness regardless of what that may be and hope that you can see the bright, lighter side of life.
1. Achieving Self Discipline
Self discipline is one of the hardest lessons to learn, but once achieved the rewards are profound. I would say this is the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome, living with an invisible illness and this is why it’s first in the list. It’s a fact that what goes in must come out and when I first started the Low FODMAP diet, I literally threw myself at it, no easing in (not recommend) I just cut out all foods that were causing havoc with my digestion meat, dairy, wheat, sugar etc. The first day or two was manageable but reality soon kicked in and I knew this was not going to be easy. I was also suffering with reoccurring SIBO, which, for those of you who know, the cravings for carbohydrates can be intense and uncontrollable, but I knew if I wanted to get past all these tummy troubles I would have to learn self discipline.
My trick was to focus on the moment and on myself. Never comparing myself to others and what they could do or have, I refused to utter the words in my mind “It’s not fair!” or “Why can’t I eat that and he/she can, life sucks.” Instead I would focus on me and remove myself from the equation. Over time people would ask me “Would you like a slice of pizza?” or “Are you on a diet to lose weight?” and rather than shying away from these questions I would find myself explaining my situation and how my body just has trouble digesting particular sugars, and more often than not people were intrigued and impressed at how I live day to day; “Wow, really, I couldn’t live without [insert sugary food here], which in-turn made me feel proud of myself and turned this into my motivation . People were also commenting on my appearance, they noticed that my hair was thicker and shinier, my skin was glowing and I looked younger; had I found the secret to eternal youth?!
2.Appreciation for Life’s Simple Pleasures
Since coming to terms living with on going health problems, I learnt quickly to enjoy the simplest of life’s pleasures, from being able to cuddle up with my plus one on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon while the dogs are sleeping at our feet, watching a trashy movie to walking to work in the early hours of the morning and stopping to say hello to the little stray dog at the end of our road. These moments (and many more alike) have taught me to just stop and take in my surroundings which helped me reach contentment. I no longer focus on the past, what happened, happened and no matter how much wishing or time spent think about old situations is ever going to change that. Neither do I focus to much on the future, sure I have dreams and aspiration but they are exciting and make me happy, however I know I don’t have sole control over the path of my future so I don’t try to. I’m at peace in my life for the first time and as a result the happiest I have ever been. Regardless of my health situation, I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m me and I’m just fine with that!
3. Listening to Your Body’s Needs
Me and my body have learnt to understand each other. I would constantly battle with my body’s abilities, especially after I came out of hospital, I would often get so frustrated that I wasn’t making a speedy enough recovery and found I was putting myself under too much pressure and pushing my body to it’s limits, which as a result slowed my recovery down even further.
Now I have learn to give my body time to do whatever it needs to do and just be patient. She has her own agenda and I just need to take the right actions in order to support that process. I have learn to carefully listen to what my body needs, for example if my digestion get bad I stop an think about any physical changes I have made and even mental ones (stress always affects my physical health first) so I will give my self a day to rest and relax.
4. You Become A Good Counsellor
Those of us living with chronic illnesses have often been through our fair share of ups and downs, and I like to think of them as making me a little tougher and more prepared for whatever life decides to through at me. I remember when I was a kid I struggled academically at school, I always had to put in 110% effort just in order to achieve a barely passable grade (although now having worked in the education sector for almost a decade I have learnt that schools, test next to nothing in terms of a pupils abilities and talents. Anyway I digress). Yet, I have never forgotten my father’s words of wisdom I shard with me one frustrating afternoon; “Kate, there are people who go through life without any shipwrecks or trouble, in other words, life is breeze for them, and then there are those, whose many shipwrecks and troubles leave scars for life; although it’s those scars that make you stronger and when you have difficult times later in life you’ll will be the one left standing and the one’s who have no, scars will often fall.”. These words have stayed with me and now I have got into the habit of asking myself “What did I learn from that experience?”.
When my friends family or students come to me with problems I will always listen and try to share what I have learnt from my challenging experiences and I hope this puts what they’re going through into some perspective.
5. Learn Tons About Nutrition
The one thing I always tell my reader is if you want to improve your digestion (or any other health issue for that matter) learn how your body processes nutrients. When I was first diagnosed with IBS, serotonin deficiency ad SIBO I threw myself onto a nutrition course. Now, I don’t expect everyone to do this, but I do recommend finding some time to do your homework. This help you so much when it come to diagnosing yourself and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
Let me know what keep you positive everyday!