I spent years feeling awful before being diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease & Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. I had migraines for nearly a decade (going on 15 years now), severe fatigue and more. Feeling so sick for so long took a serious toll on my psyche.
My thought life was a war zone and looked a little something like this:
"What if I never feel better?"
"My body hates me"
"I'll never feel normal."
"I feel like I'm going to pass out."
"There is no way I can make it through the work day again."
"I hate always being in severe pain."
If you are one of the nearly 50% of Americans who suffer from a chronic health problem, I'm guessing you can relate. Maybe you've even experienced similar thoughts.
If you're reading this you have gotten the diagnosis, you've read every book and internet article on your condition, you've changed your diet, and you most likely have a big old binder full of treatment protocols, lab results and other things.
You've learned who to share your struggles with, and who not to. You've learned the difference between tolerable misery and intolerable agony. You take your pills, supplements, get adequate rest...but something's missing. You're surviving, but you want to thrive.
I know, because I've been there, too.
I’ve suffered from Chronic Migraines, Chemical Sensitivities, Hypothyroidism, Chronic Lyme Disease, and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (often referred to as Mold Illness or Environmental Illness) for years. When I was at my sickest, I turned to the internet for support.
It was the internet that brought me my first glimmer of hope in the form of women like Kris Carr and Jess Ainscough. These women had horrible diseases, but were living their lives to the fullest, within their boundaries. Inspired by these women, I began the upward battle of learning to thrive.
It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I realized I was enjoying my life again. I still have bad days, of course, and can find myself thinking negative thoughts, but I have learned some valuable tips along the way.
Listen to your body
Learn yourself inside and out so that when your body tells you to rest- do it! When it's telling you to get the hell out of that moldy boutique - you need to run, don't go try on that dress you're eyeing. When it's tell you it's uncomfortable, but in your heart you know it's your emotions or fear holding you back and not your illness - push through it. Listen so that you know when it's time to worry and when it's time to suck it up.
Figure out what and how much you want to share about your illness...and with whom. I'm sure you've told someone about your illness who was less than supportive, perhaps even disbelieving. Hone in on your support system. It's perfectly fine if your support system is online. I have made truly beautiful, supportive, real friendships via Instagram and Youtube!
Get back into activities that you used to enjoy. Or find new ones! Don't let your illness be all consuming. I know it's really easy to give in to this, but don't do it. Buy some flowers, try a new recipe or daydream about a vacation. Write down a list of 10 things that make you happy. Keep it where you can remind yourself of those things when the going is rough.
If you are well enough to move your body, do it. Even if it's just stretching. Exercise stimulates your lymphatic system, a key component of your immune system, and also releases endorphins. Endorphins are not overrated! Exercise might even relieve some pain, too.
THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS
Pay attention to your self talk. What do you tell yourself? If it's more often than not something that goes like "why me" or "my body sucks" or "I can't do this", it's time for a self-talk revamp.
I didn't realize just how negative my self talk was until my acupuncturist recommended that I spend 10 minutes a day meditating with the mantra of "my body is healing". After a few days of this, whenever I noticed my negative thought pattern, I would interrupt the thoughts with that mantra. Sometimes I get really specific and think "I feel grounded" when I'm feeling off-balance, which is a common symptom for me. Another favorite mantra is "I am worthy of vibrant health".
I know this sounds a little woo-woo to some of you, but I promise if you give it a whirl for a few weeks you will notice a difference. It wasn't until I made this change in my thought patterns that I started noticing physical improvements, as well!
While chronic illness isn't always a walk in the park, it can be a catalyst to positive change. There's no better time to be true to yourself. You deserve to thrive, not just survive!