Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Secret Triumph

I've read a lot of posts in online communities for people who have chronic health issues. One common complaint I hear is how other people don't understand how hard it is for us to do even the most simple things. In their frustration at their loss of ability, they feel sorry for themselves. I've been there. I've done the moping. I totally understand. Getting a chronic illness sucks! But there's a way to flip that around. There's a way whereby we can look at our struggle over easy daily tasks and we can realize that we are MIGHTY. By the very fact that it is more difficult for us, we can then take pride in doing even the most mundane things. It's all a matter of perspective.

And that's my secret triumph. Most people have to go out and run marathons, or hike a 14,000' mountain to do a great thing. I just have to get the laundry done (now there's a Herculean task!). People don't understand how difficult that can be. Which is fine with me. I can take pride in it myself, knowing that I have been stunningly awesome every time I can get that simple task done. Oh, sure, for them it's easy. But then, they have an easy life without chronic illness. That's no big deal for them. It is for me... and for that reason, I can have an amazing amount of pride in myself, just for getting through my day.

I don't have to write the next great American novel. I don't have to conquer the elements in some great quest. I don't have to discover the cure for the common cold (beer) or find the cure for cancer (cannabinoids). I just have to wake up in the morning and take my pills on time. Right then, I've already saved a life for the day: my own! Everything after that is gravy.

If I am able to achieve some semblance of "normal," then that's incredible. I have to obey a lot of very strict rules, and do some really crazy things in order to reach normal. I have to get 11 hours of sleep on work nights (plus Friday, because I'm usually at my rope's end by then). That means going to bed at 7:30, so I can be up at 6:30 in time for work. It takes me two and a half hours to get ready in the morning, because I first have to get all my medications in my system and get them properly digested before I can do anything else. After they kick in and start working (usually an hour before I notice the effect) then I can get started on my day like a normal person (get dressed, brush my teeth, etc.). By the time I'm driving to work, I've already accomplished a miracle! My day hasn't even started, and already it's amazing.

Then, every day that I'm able to come to work and have people think that I'm normal just like them... that's another miracle. I'm able to manage my symptoms through my day so that they're largely invisible to everyone else. I'm able to complete my work, and no one else is wise to the fact that I'm fighting to keep this up. I'm fighting... and I'm winning. Every day is a struggle, and every day, I work to make it seem like it isn't there at all. My success depends on no one else knowing how hard it is, as though it's no bother at all.

My self esteem comes from my ability to make my problems no problem. It's a lot of work!!! And each and every day I can be proud of myself for my efforts. No one else knows how much I struggle, and I like it that way. The less they know about my disease, the more successful I am. Like the graceful swan who is gliding on the surface and paddling like crazy beneath the water, so too do I make all this struggle look effortlessly beautiful. That's my secret triumph: I make this look awesome.

So, rather than feel sorry for ourselves for all the extra things we have to go through each and every day (not to mention the crazy drama that pops up as a matter of course), my suggestion is take all of that anger and turn it into pride. Yes, it's difficult to the point of tears. But if you can manage it, and do so without the tears, well then, look at how mighty you are! If you can put up with hellfire and brimstone, and do it with a smile and a cheerful attitude, there's no better way to cheat the devil. Be proud of every little thing you can do, because these diseases want to make it so we can't. Hold your head high, just for the fact that you endure. That alone is mighty enough.

But I don't look sick? Thanks! I work very hard to keep it that way. ;)