If you let it, life with chronic illness can become all about “I can’t”. You start to focus on all the things that you previously enjoyed or used to be able to do that your illness no longer allows you to, leading to feelings of bitterness and resentment. But there is another option too. Start living! You can live the life you want. It’s down to you to create your own story and you will get from life exactly what you put in. You can live a kick ass life with chronic illness and here’s 6 ways to get you started.

1. Slow Down

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“Slow down, happiness is trying to catch you.”

It seems crazy to be telling you to slow down when a second ago I was talking about living life to the full, right? Well, let’s not forget there’s chronic illness to contend with. It’s all about priorities. We do not have endless amounts of energy to do with as we please. Until we learn to slow down, we will never be able to get what we want out of life. Ask yourself, what expends most of your energy right now? Does it make you happy? If not, it’s time for a change. Take time to figure out what would make you happy and then invest your energy there. This will mean reducing what you do in other areas of your life. Maybe the housework doesn’t get done quite so often, for example. For me it’s work. Previously, I have spent all week working and then used my evenings and weekends to recover my energy so that I was able to work again the following week. I’ve come to the realisation that there is more to life than money. Yes, I need to pay the bills but I can also cut down on spending so that I don’t need to earn so much. I would much rather live with less and be able to do more of the things I want to than the other way around. There is no shame in going part-time. After all, there’s more to life than work.

2. Accept & Embrace Who You Are

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“The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest is being happy with what you find.”

I’ve spent the last year of my life trying to get back to “normal”. I’ve been stuck trying to go backwards instead of embracing who I am and moving forward. The second I started to live in the here and now, the happier I became. Instead of wishing for the past or worrying about the future, accept who you are today. Realise that it’s okay to be struggling. Bring yourself closer to those around you by opening up about it. Focus your energy on what would make you more comfortable and happy right now at this very moment.

3. Realise That You Are Stronger Because Of Your Struggles

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“Strength of character isn’t always about how much you can handle before you break, it’s about how much you can handle after you’re broken.”

You’re illness does not define who you are. You are going to experience set backs when you live with chronic illness but be proud of the fact that you are able to pick yourself back up and carry on. Do not dwell on the difficulties of a flare up. Take them for what they are- you’re body is telling you it needs to rest. They are not a failure or a reflection of your abilities. Take a moment to realise just how amazing you are to carry on in spite of everything you are going through. Equally, stop getting annoyed at the people who don’t realise you are ill because you look well. Don’t be resentful if they lack understanding or empathy. Instead, be proud of the fact you are doing so well that people can’t tell otherwise. You have amazing strength.

4. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

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“Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to others.”

Everyone has their own purpose in life and their own journey to follow. Stop comparing yourself to others and wishing you had what they do. Life is what you make of it and it is up to you to achieve the things you want from it. It’s your adventure, not someone else’s. Think about what it is that is making you jealous. Is it actually something you want for yourself? If you are honest with yourself then the answer is probably no because, if you did want it, you would be working hard to achieve it. Life is not a competition. Even if you are working towards a goal that someone else achieved before you, realise your time will come. All your hard work is an investment in your future. The fact that someone else has done it shows you that it is achievable, so use that to fuel your desire to get there too. Hard work will always pay off.

5. Stop Dreaming & Start Doing

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“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Having a dream is great. It gives you a focus. But the problem with dreaming is that there is no action. Sometimes others are getting ahead of you and achieving the things you want for yourself simply because you aren’t doing anything. You might dream of a better life but what are you doing to achieve it? Having chronic illness does not make our dreams impossible. It just means we have to plan better and take our time. Fear is often what is really holding us back, not illness. So stop with the excuses and start doing. If you dream of being an author, start writing. If you dream of being a photographer, get out there and start taking photos. Live your life. You will have to pace yourself and, let’s be realistic here, you are not going to be able to spend all hours of the day investing in your dream. However, that doesn’t mean you have to do nothing. Maybe you will manage a few hours a week? Maybe it will be something you do can only do a couple of times a month. But it’s something! Go for it!!

6. Do Not Be Afraid To Fail

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“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”

Speak to any successful person and they will tell you that they experienced numerous failures before reaching success. Success is a journey and along the way there will be setbacks and failures. Do not let take it to heart. Take them for what they are- opportunities to learn and grow from. Each setback is one step closer to your final goal. Sometimes you have to figure out what doesn’t work before you realise what does. Don’t let failure stop you from trying. Learn from your mistakes, move on and give it your all.

Author

Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.

9 Comments

  1. Great lessons that I needed to sit down and read this morning (Was feeling a bit lost with this chronic illness gig getting a bit too long!) Thanks

  2. Thank you so much for this! I was pretty low when I started reading it. I’m seven weeks into sick leave with my current flare. I don’t think I’m up to returning yet. I’m starting to get scared full time work may be too much already. I started a small business that’s completely adaptable to how I feel but it’s not making any money yet. I’d hoped to keep the full time job at least until I could pull an early retirement. But that’s over a decade away!

    • Sorry to hear you are in a flare. It’s stressful to be off work but try not to worry about the future as it is out of your control. I too am off work at the moment. When I do return, it will be part-time. I’ve put this off as long as possible as what 28 year old wants to give up full-time employment? But I’ve come to appreciate that nothing is more important than my health and living from one flare to the next is not right. Good luck with your crafting business. You never know when success is just around the corner 🙂

  3. Fabulous. Your comments about cutting down on work really resonate, priorities need to change, new goals can be found, health has to come first. It’s a tough call to make but an important part of accepting and accommodating chronic illness.

    • Thank you. I do believe there is nothing more important than our health. It can lead to difficult decisions, but like you say, it’s an important part of learning to live well with chronic illness.

  4. It took my Type A personality many years and a lot of patient lectures from therapists and my husband to finally accept my limits. Turns out, I was using a lot of energy fighting my limitations. Life’s a lot easier and less tormented now.

    It still sucks that I can’t just go out on a whim, and I have to lie low for a couple of days if I want to go to a party or be out for a few hours. But it’s easier to work within your limits than to constantly be angry and working while in a deficit.

    • Such wise words there! I completely agree as I was very much the same. Living your life outwith your energy envelope and constantly being in deficit is no fun. Accepting your limitations is a big step towards living a better life in my opinion

    • I too have been wasting the little energy I had. I had a very active summer, but as soon as the weather started to change, so did my limitations. I have been in a flare up for the last 2 months. I also have gallstones and a hormonal condition that are causing a lot of problems for me right now. I haven’t been able to focus for long on anything but TV and coloring. So I am excepting my limitations and trying to convince myself that for right now at least, I am going to do the best job I can at coloring, until I am able to do more that is ?

      • I’m so sorry you have been in a 2 month flare. It sounds like you have a lot going on but that your attitude is perfect. I think when we can see flares as temporary and concentrate on exactly what we need to do to overcome them, that’s when we get over them quicker. Rest up and take care.

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