Layers and layers of struggles come with chronic illness. We may get so ill that we need the help of others and some will show up and some will not. We may need the insight of certain doctors or maybe the wisdom of people with natural approaches. They may or may not show up to help. When all is said and done, we have to show up for ourselves. During the journey of chronic illness, we get to watch ourselves rise above all odds and be there for ourselves in so many ways that we never imagined.
The Horrid Beginnings Of Chronic Illness
You remember when you realized that you did not just have an illness, you have an illness that will not be easily overcome. No good night of sleep will fix this one. No one bowl of broth will fix it. No extra love and attention will fix it. No trip to the doctor’s office for any magic pill that does not exist.
You realize you are deeper into illness than you planned on and certainly deeper than you have the knowledge to get out of on your own. You need help, You seek help from doctors, family, friends and every social media group that resembles your symptoms.
Others show up to help and progress is made. Then come the hills and valleys of chronic illness and you realize that there are deeper root issues to your illness that keep you ill. Back to those doctors, friends, family and social media resources and this time you realize they have their limits too.
Not only are we so ill at this point that we are beyond frustration but we may feel like we are running out of resources to keep up the fight. Financial resources are dwindling, relationships are crumbling and our bodies have been poked and prodded and tested with no final resolution. Our needs are endless.
Realities Of Chronic Illness Set In
Wow, not only have the months slipped by, but now we are on to years spent on chronic illness that has taken over our lives in every aspect. Our occasional upturns in health have given us hope and the energy fight on. Then we get hit again with another downturn.
- The word hope gets examined more during this time. What is it really and do we even still have any at that point.
- Friends and family get redefined as many disappear over the seemingly endless years of illness.
- Medical and health care become something we never expected. They are just as human as we are and do not have all the answers like we thought.
- Distinctions are now more clearly made between the words “need” and “want” as we are forced into giving up our “wants.”
Sounds like it is doom and gloom, then the lightbulbs turn on.
- We realize the beautiful depth of the word hope that we could never have seen without this experience.
- We make new friends and family and we treasure the ones who did not abandon us with a greater sense of relationship than we could have imagined.
- We find our way through the health care system and beliefs we once had and establish new and wiser ones.
- We have lost the burden of chasing all of our “wants” and now we relish in getting any “need” met.
As we make the twists and turns through chronic illness, these insights bring us closer to health, one step at a time.
Help Is Not Enough
There are as many circumstances as there are people with chronic illness. For those with sufficient help, relish it. For those with no help, there is hope. Most people fall somewhere between those extremes. Every single situation is different and has its own complexities.
Whether you are one who has sufficient help or one who has none, during this journey of chronic illness, you will at some point be required to learn how to show up for yourself.
It is obvious when we have no help how we have to show up for ourselves but when we have sufficient help, how does that work?
Chronic illness tries to suck life out of us, leaving us more needy than others can fully quench. Yes, when we have loved ones pouring love and care into us, our burdens are lighter. Yet there is still an element of need that others cannot fulfill.
We have to show up for ourselves to fill all of those empty spaces that chronic illness devours. Finding out what those empty spaces are and the examination of such is what showing up for ourselves is about. No one else can do this part for us. We have to do that part of the healing on our own.
For those with no help, oh my!! You know the despair of the constant showing up for yourself. You also know the victories of doing so. When you physically cannot get out of bed to feed or bathe yourself and there is no help, yet somehow you conquer the day, you find what you are really made of. There is a victory in that, so much sweeter than a hundred ill-intentioned helping hands.
Yep, me myself and I can show up for ourselves.
Time To Fully Show Up For Ourselves
When we become aware that all of this is taking place we can relish in the victories. They really do happen daily even before we are aware of it. We are here today, right now, alive. In this moment we still have life inside of us to stay on the journey. You are choosing to take each breath.
There you go, you are already showing up for yourself.
The pure exhaustion physically, emotionally and spirituality of chronic illness tries to deplete us. But there is something inside of us that has a will to live, even when we no longer feel like it. Many of us have experienced life-threatening emergencies on our journey and amazed that we lived to tell about it. Even when we cannot identify it, we show up for ourselves.
Those of us who have experienced the rotting away effect of chronic illness can remember the nights of not expecting to wake up. Our bodies have taken a toll and there is nothing left to sustain life. Then we wake up, with surprise. We open our eyes to make sure it is real. We sit up and move through our day.
We show up for ourselves as we wake up and accept we are still alive.
We feel like there cannot be another medical crisis that can be endured. Yet when we are given more news that yet another disease has been added to our arsenal, we keep plowing through it all. Instead of seeing it as a death sentence, we see it as an opportunity to eliminate more of what is causing all the problems. Instead of chasing the 20 different diseases we now face, we learn about root causes of disease. It lessons the impact of what is happening. It makes it more manageable to face each morning.
Wow can we show up for ourselves when we get the concept of root causes.
We have help but no one gets it. They all seem to have answers but none of them have to endure the pain and the fears. Everyone is talking but no one truly gets it. Then something clicks. We realize that it does not matter if they get it. We would never wish this experience on anyone so we actually don’t want them to get it. We want support but not at the expense of them having to experience this.
Accepting our circumstances is showing up for ourselves.
We no longer feel loved by anyone. Love does not look like what we are seeing in others. We fight that situation for a while, then realize we cannot make others truly love us. But we have the ability to love ourselves, NO MATTER WHAT. No one can take that away from us.
Having the ability to know we are worthy of love is completely showing up for ourselves.
We have no help, no one sincerely cares, and the physical needs are beyond our capacity. At the end of the day we are amazed that what we thought we “needed” for that day never happened, yet we survived. We strive for more than survival, but for today when true physical needs are not met, we are so thrilled with survival that we see victory.
Showing up for survival is a sweet victory that adds to healing.
When we are completely isolated and cannot do anything about it, we realize we are so alone that we could die and be left rotting for weeks on end until someone finds us. Then all of a sudden we hear ourselves laugh at our own jokes. We have moments of seeing our own strength and we are proud of ourselves. We find that we actually like ourselves in the midst of the misery.
THAT is showing up for yourself.
Just Do It…
Nike had that one right. Just do it.
Every day start to take note of how you are showing up for yourself, regardless of any circumstance. At first this is hard to do if you have never thought about it before.
Write it down!!
When you actually write it down you can refer to it on days you cannot see it in yourself.
There was a point in my illness when I could not even write things down. My hands did not work and my eyesight was so inflamed that I could not see well enough to write. In an odd moment, I picked up an old photo album. I started flipping through it. Pure shock set in.
It had been years since anyone said anything positive about me, my life, my parenting, anything. Okay, surely an exaggeration but that is what it felt like.
As I was flipping through the album and this shock was setting in, I grabbed the next photo album and slowly made my way through ALL of my albums. I set my eyes on every picture I owned. From my childhood through my last photo taken. It was all there in front of me, my whole life.
It was glorious. Through all the trials that life has presented, I was amazed at what I have lived through and done. Regardless of all the problems, I could see with my own eyes, the victories of making the best out of a life with tremendous obstacles.
Usually we tend to go down the negative path of what we do not have. We don’t have our health, we don’t have enough support, we don’t have the medical attention we need, etc etc. All of that is very true. No, we don’t have what we need to get us out of the downward spiral of chronic illness. That is why we have to show up for ourselves.
When we start to see the magnitude of our issues, we can dip into seeing how we already show up for ourselves. My photo album experience allowed me to look backwards and realize that I have always shown up for myself even though I only recently discovered that fact.
With that discovery, I have built on it. I have gained confidence in myself to know that I will be there, no matter how bad it gets. It has allowed me to say no and set boundaries that better my health. It also has allowed me to say yes to what I instinctively know will help me heal.
Showing up for myself has allowed me to be kinder to myself. Kindness is sometimes hard to find. The kinder I am to myself, the more I don’t allow the unkindness of others to penetrate my healing journey.
Take Action, Show Up
When we show up, we become a loving and ferocious warrior for ourselves.
Exactly how do you show up for yourself? Do you give yourself enough credit for all that you have done for yourself? How are you showing acts of kindness for yourself? Have you yet become your own superhero?
Maribeth Baxter, MBNC (Certified Mind-Body Nourishment Coach)