During and after reading You Don’t Look Sick (see review below), I did a lot of thinking and reflecting on how I had been dealing with living in chronic pain. The book breaks living with chronic illness into four phases: Getting Sick, Being Sick, Grief and Acceptance, and Living Well. As I was reading, I was pretty sure I had already dealt with all the grief, accepted my situation, and moved on to the task of learning how to live well. The more I read however, I realized I was still stuck in the Grief and Acceptance phase. Thinking back over the last six months, I saw how I had gone back and forth between grief and acceptance multiple times. I would make some headway towards acceptance, then have a really bad doctor’s appointment or a huge pain flare and I would swing right back to grieving who I was and who I may never be.
For example, in December I went to several appointments in one week where I kept hearing the same thing: The prognosis is not good, we don’t know what is causing this, we may never know, and you are probably going to have to deal with this the rest of your life. Even though, deep down, I already knew all of this, it felt like a blow to my heart. I didn’t realize how much I was clinging to who I used to be. I was still imagining myself as a fit young woman full of energy and productivity trapped in a broken, painful body. I wasn’t accepting the body and life I currently have, so I wasn’t able to fully live well within my limits.
Basically I felt like a broken version of my old self and, in turn, was rejecting the person I had become. I felt that somehow I was less than whole, a fraction of who I used to be. It wasn’t until I was reading about acceptance that I realized how messed up my thinking was. I’m NOT broken. I am whole person. I’m just different than I used to be (which, by the way, is actually a really good thing). I’m smarter (I’ve learned a ton about pain and the medical field), I’ve experienced deep and wonderful friendships, my faith is stronger, I can empathize and relate to many more people, and I appreciate all the little things and blessings in my life so much more than I ever did before. Having been forced to slow down, I have also been forced to learn how to live in, and appreciate, the still and quiet moments that come with having to rest and stay at home a lot.
As all these revelations became clear in my mind I felt so much more at peace with myself and my situation. I felt… acceptance. Mind you, this didn’t happen overnight. I thought about all this over the course of several weeks. But, let me tell you, being in a place of acceptance and peace is so much sweeter, and easier, than fighting through grief. This isn’t to say I’m never going to grieve again. I’m sure there will be hard times in the future, but I will be able to look at the lessons I’ve learned and remember how much better it feels to accept. For now though, I’m just looking forward to moving on to the next phase: Living Well.
…more to come…
We all battle through grief and acceptance through life in all kinds of situations. What realizations brought you out of grief to a place of acceptance? Did a person or book help show you the way?