Chronic illness: When one door gets locked

Chronic illness possibilities and limitations

Here is the thing about quotes that reference doors. I think, well, it is a door… just open the damn thing back up. But here is the thing about chronic illness we know that some doors get locked. We have to make compromises and we lock those doors ourselves. Like when I put aside my academic career. Or when I put an end to my other career to work part-time. And you stare at that locked door for a very long time. Because you put an end to a path. Something you wanted, because it benefits your health to do so. It is a compromise though; it benefited your health but you sacrificed something for it like happiness, financial wellbeing, job satisfaction and progress in a career path. That sort of thing.

It can be hard to see the path forward. And in fact that health wellbeing leads to things like mental and emotional wellbeing. And happiness even. Or other opportunities provided for us to fill the void.

We fail, often, to acknowledge in life doors close all the time. Not just for health reasons. For all sorts of reasons. But we fixate on it when our health Forces us to make these difficult choices. Because it is a lack of a choice it seems. We lack the possibilities.

I will say things like I ‘gave up’ my academic career. And I ‘gave up’ my career progress to work part-time. And I feel that part-time work isn’t going to ‘get me’ anywhere. It is about the loss. Not about the gain. I gained a lot. Less daily stress from working part-time. More ability to cope with the pain when working, or at least the possibility of coping with the pain whereas full time there wasn’t even the possibility. Can’t say I seem to be great at part-time either but the potential is at least there. And if I can’t then I will have to accept the fact I cannot work at all, which will be another compromise people make for their health. Which is generally a massive adjustment because people often feel guilty about not working, judged by society and not productive enough. We distinctly feel the loss of work. And very little gain… as in we are able to cope better with our illness.

I will say I often see the closed door. The loss. I see the financial instability. The lack of a career. The lack of contribution. The lack of job satisfaction. I feel very much like a kid doing a summer job. And doing it poorly, which is very much not my work ethic, but the pain interferes with every damn thing. It is hard to see the benefits. Unless I focus very hard.

That is why psychologists recommend gratitude journals. To help us focus on the benefits, the gains and the things we are grateful for. Like for example… I am grateful I don’t have to work tomorrow after working today. That I have this day off after a day of work to recover. That my employer permitted this flexibility that they do not normally permit in part-time workers.

Past thinking is obviously harmful to us. We do it all the time. But I hate to do it because my health and pain have gotten substantially worse, not better. So looking to the past I was capable of More. And looking at the Less I can do now makes me feel horrible. It is much more important to look at the present and for new potential opportunities. For example, new things to do that actually make you happy. Maybe your job will never make you happy and give you any satisfaction because you can no longer have that actual career anymore… just a job for a little work. So what? If you are capable of that, then do it and understand it gets you out of the house, socializing and is healthy in the sense it is good for a person mentally. And then… find things to do that genuinely make you happy. Like I should do more writing jobs because that is genuinely what makes me happy.

We get forced to by our circumstances to slow the pace of our lives down. And this is good. I think living a more mellow life is the way to go. Less overall stress. More easy-going. Less need to say yes to every single event and social obligation. But also we can do things for self-care like hobbies, time to ourselves, walks, and socializing… as part of taking care of ourselves. We should look for opportunities to do those self-care things because they are as important as medication. So… maybe new doors to happiness will open. Not new stressful jobs that we cannot handle. But new possibilities for ways to fill that time with self-care. We need it.

So we compromise on the hard stuff. Don’t focus on the past. Add new things in for self-care which improves our mental and emotional wellbeing. With no guilt because we are taking care of our health in all aspects that we can. With chronic illness, yes, our possibilities are limited by our health, but we still have so many possibilities that work with our health. And those are the ones that will help us cope and survive.

Also see:

How a bad boss impacted my wellbeing

What to do on very bad days

Remembering the Self-care

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