How to Keep from Growing Bitter When You Aren’t Getting Better
guest post by Angie Glaser
On August 21st, the moon, Earth, and sun lined up perfectly causing the morning sky to darken in a solar eclipse. Morning darkness is eerie. Everything is where it should be – except the sunlight.
The absence of the sun, such an immensely powerful force, touches every corner with darkness in much the same way that the absence of health touches every corner of our lives.
Like the sudden darkness of a solar eclipse, illness darkens the world around us. The Earth still spins, leaves still flutter, but everything that we see and feel is touched by chronic illness.
Unlike an eclipse, chronic illness is not fleeting. It is with us every second of every day, intent on bringing darkness, but each of us has the power to bring light.
As a young woman in my early-20s, my health was like the sun: so pervasive to my daily experience that it never occurred to me that it would not always be there. Like so many of us living with chronic illness, my life was irreparably changed by disease.
It has been four years of specialists, pills, and treatments with little improvement in my symptoms and pain, but my life is not as dark as it once was. Every day I make a choice: I choose peace over despair. I refuse to let my world grow even darker – I refuse to grow bitter.
How do you add light to dark days when you’re sick? How do you deal with pain, stigma, disappointment, grief, and depression without letting it harden you? I would be lying if I said it was simple or straightforward. But bringing more light into your daily life, investing in your own peace of mind, is absolutely worth the effort.
How to remain strong in the face of illness
Finding peace in the turbulent chronic life ultimately boils down to this: find what nourishes you and return to it as often as you can. Illness is constantly asking things of us, draining our patience and our energies. Activities that replenish you are necessary to keep your well of strength of up:
1 – Talk
Chronic illness changes your world, so your worldview must change if you want to thrive as best you can. Such a total shift in perception is really difficult on your own.
Working with a cognitive behavioral therapist, even for just a few short weeks, is immensely valuable. I personally owe a lot to my former therapist, and really value what I learned from her. [You can learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy and find a therapist here: http://www.abct.org]
2 – Connect
Find a chronic illness buddy to vent to, to comfort, and to help the insane world of sickness feel a little less insane. The support on social media and in support groups among people with chronic illnesses is truly incredible.
If you don’t already have a network or a buddy who gets what you’re going through, please find one!
3 – Cuddle
An ancient, tried and true secret to peace and happiness is through pets. As a cat lady, I suggest adopting a kitten from a shelter in the spring and watching how much more you often you smile. Dogs, lizards, rabbits, even fish are soothing companions who will brighten even the ickiest of flare days.
4 – Breathe
Get outside and breathe fresh air, as often as you can! Bonus points if you move your body while outside, but it isn’t necessary. I like to think of walking as a moving meditation. A way for me to cycle fresh air throughout my entire body and to give my spine and hips a break from lying in bed.
Walking, gentle yoga, or simple stretching all help our sore bodies release tension and benefit from pain-relieving endorphins.
5 – Eat
Falling in love with food again while sick is one of the most important things I have done for myself.
Dealing with Chronic Migraine means a lot of playing around with diet, and a lot of potential anxiety around food. To avoid that anxiety, I take to the internet. I research and pin tons and tons of recipes that work with my quirky diets and do everything I can to make food fun.
I put together shopping lists with pretty pens and listen to audiobooks while I cook. Any little thing to make nourishing my body more rewarding is worth it!
6 – Laugh
It feels amazing and is necessary. Comedy shows, funny podcasts, your favorite funny movies from the 90s – anything that cracks a smile will bring more light into your day.
7 – Create
Being creative evokes some of the best feelings of personal growth and love for the surrounding world.
Whether you’re coloring, gardening, listening to music, writing poems, drawing, cooking a meal, or singing in the shower, creativity is nourishment for your soul the way food is for your body.
Living with chronic illness means living with grief, and it is 100% okay to spend days in your PJ’s watching Netflix.
But after years of dealing with symptoms and fatigue, sometimes we have to make an effort to not become bitter – for our own sakes.
Spending time and energy on things that nourish you will help you live a full life, no matter what comes your way.
When you’ve been living with chronic illness for months, years, or even decades, your body seems intent on holding you back.
- 10 ways to distract yourself from pain
- Chronic Illness Does Not Make You a Failure
- 11 Misconceptions of chronic illness
- 15 ways Alexa makes life easier for those with chronic illness