Having a chronic disease hard enough physically, but mentally it ends up being just as taxing. Sometimes it seems the longer you battle and the worse it gets … the more alone you feel on the journey. It's hard to explain to others because there wasn't one incident that changed your life forever -- a shark biting off your leg, for instance -- rather it's a long, drawn out process surrounding a seemingly “invisible” illness that many people simply can’t understand. Probably not even you sometimes.
What's even more difficult is when you begin to find yourself being defined by your disease. Whether it's through negative comments (maybe you were called a hypochondriac, or accused of doing it all for attention) or well-meaning comments (for years all you've heard is “poor thing”) all of this attention can take a toll on our psyche, and in many ways we can start to end up feeling like we are a walking embodiment of our disease. It begins to define us, and in some ways it may even start to make us question our own inner strength and resilience. And if you look back to see activities you once loved have been replaced only with pain, discomfort, and sadness, it becomes increasingly easy to lose track of who you really are. Without wanting to, your disease has taken over your life.
Which is why it's a wonderful thing to check back in with yourself. Chronic pain is debilitating, it's even been proven to change the way we think by remapping our brain! Talk about a strong power. But through resilience and and open mind to grow and change, you can find that girl inside who likes to have fun, who has hope, who is strong, and who wants to be friends again.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity. It’s the hero in the movie who’s taken as a slave, but amazingly stays calm and escapes … with a beautiful woman at his side. It’s the women of this country who, in the face of inequality, planned the largest day long protest in United States history this January 2017. And it’s people with chronic disease who don’t take their diagnosis as a death sentence, but rather a detour from their current route onto one with a different scenery.
It’s coping with crisis and being stronger for it.
The interesting thing about resilience it that you aren’t born with it. Rather, it develops as we grow and learn to create intelligent pathways to manage our lives. It’s is found in our behaviors and our thoughts and is something we learn over to time to help us cope with and get through the hurdles that we experience in life. The hurdles will come, but with resilience we can study, laugh, and learn through them. Yes they will hurt us, but no, we won’t let them kill us.
Developing your own sense of resilience will help you better reconnect to new yourself. I say “new” because, most likely, you’re a different person now than before your symptoms started, and unless you have a strong practice of resilience to bolster you up, you may find yourself falling away from the person you once were, without a goal of becoming someone better.
And lucky for us endo girls, we’re some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met! Seriously, this group of women is pretty kick-ass, creating a movement from the ground-up when no doctors, politicians, or, well, anybody, seemed to want to help. There’s “Fight like a girl” and “Endo-warrior” and “Endo-strong” taglines, so positive in the face of adversity. Come on, how cool is that?
A New Normal, New Hobbies
Resilience will bolster your resolve, and creating a new normal for yourself will make things feel, well, normal again. It’s taking voids in your life that were filled with “used-to’s”, and replacing them with “can-do’s”. Remember, the can-do's of today will change, hopefully you'll be able to do much more as you heal, but it's about honoring where you're at right now.
If intense workout’s were your jam, you might really be craving movement. Learning to find deep joy in hiking, yoga, or the alignment world would be an awesome example of what a new normal could look like. Or if you have a hard time leaving the house, think about your "learn before I die" list and pick off a few favs, maybe like learning how to sing, play guitar, paint with watercolors, or have a beautiful flower bed. Jot down a list of all the hobbies you could have with your new lifestyle and take a lesson, buy some supplies, make time in your schedule.
Note of Apology: Streaming movies is not a hobby. Nor is Pinterest-wandering. This should be about you connecting back to you.
Plus, creating a new normal is great to do when developing your new endo lifestyle anyways, because most likely you won't be able to completely go back to the life you were living before the symptoms kicked in. I don't mean that in a gloom way, just the fact that you're body's needs are different now and although you can turn your endo "off", you can't ditch it on the curb. Even though I say my endo is healed, if I went back to college and ate terribly, drank every weekend, and sat in a chair most of my hours, I promise you my endo would have me floored all over again. That means the only direction is forward, so start paving the way for the life in which you can flourish with the condition you face right now.
Surprisingly, as you create a new normal you may truly find it being better than whatever you had before. You just have to trust the direction your life river is flowing.
Remember How to Play
Many of us have forgotten how to play. With so much structure, distraction, and even society dictating how grown ups are "supposed" to behave, we can easily fall out of the childlike mentality of having some really simple, really fun, fun. Throw in some chronic pain and it's even harder to find random bouts of fun popping into your life.
Which is why right now is a great time to remind yourself how to play again! It doesn't take a new hobby or a time commitment, just a little light heartedness will start you on your way. The easiest beginning is to just be silly without worrying anyone is judging you. Dress up in funny aprons and cook dinner, walk like a crab and try to knock your boyfriend over, grab a floaty toy and jump in the ocean to see how many times you get tossed by a wave, or try to switch tandem surf boards with your goofiest pals.
Anything unstructured works just as well. Designate a place to meet, even if it's just at your living room, but don't plan what's going to happen. Let fun and laughter guide you to your own favorite type of play :)
Reconnecting to your inner child will help bring joy back into your life.