If you are like me, you still have a desire to live life. You want to be active and enjoy moments with those that you love, while also having an inner need to feel as if your life is meaningful and purposeful.
But what do you do when you seem to get stuck? What do you do when illness, it's symptoms, it's limitations, it's impact on life, and even your fears of doubt and uncertainty attempt to hold you back?
After reflecting on my own personal experiences, contemplating advice I've heard and read, while also considering suggestions of support that I offer my friends and loved ones when they are in need, I devised a plan. My main goal is to keep moving forward, by viewing and utilizing the obstacles that I face in life, not as a hindrance, but instead as GROWING POINTS.
So how does one do that? How can the negatives in life lead to new outlooks and positive growth?
Below is a general outline of points that may help improve personal growth. By no means have I mastered any of the following. I am still a work in progress and will continue to be for the remainder of my life. This list is more like a guideline for me.
These reminders will hopefully aide me in helping those I care about, myself, and possibly even others, with the perspective of discovering and obtaining growth in the midst of our illness, pain, or suffering.
- What would you tell your best friend or a loved one in the same situation?
- Set reasonable expectations. Being flexible and patient with yourself if health interferes.
- Mistakes happen, use them for growing and improving, not self-blaming or self-punishment. Many people live through their lives blaming themselves or feeling guilty for just about everything that happens, including health limitations. We all go through life making mistakes or dealing with guilt, but it is how we respond to these situations that will make a difference on the person we become. Learn how to move past blaming yourself, so that you can continue on enjoying your life as a wiser, more empathetic, and knowledgeable person. Use your experiences and lessons learned to help others.
- Be patient, kind, and comforting, NOT critical of yourself. Look at all of the positive aspects of yourself, actions, and goals. You have so much to offer, even if you don't believe so at times. Try making a comprehensive lists of all the marvelous things about your personality and characteristics. Having trouble? Ask your loved ones for their opinions.
- Journal or write about how you are feeling. Being reflective, expressing your emotions (good, bad, and everything in between) can help you better understand where you are coming from. It's a great way to unload, but also can be insightful and very therapeutic. Be sure to label the emotions, not yourself! (Example: I'm not a failure, but not being able to attend the school event made me FEEL like a failure as a mom.)
- LIVE life for God, self, and family. Disappearing or withdrawing may seem easier or like the best option at the time, but is it truly what would be best in the eyes of God or your family? Instead, what positive actions or deeds can you do to help others, regardless of your condition at the moment. Can you offer encouragement, guidance, or support to others? Pray for guidance and clarity to survive the tough times, while recognizing and appreciating all of your blessings. Have faith and trust in yourself and God's purpose. Instead of trying to exclude yourself, use your situation as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with those you care about most.
- Remember that how others judge you, or how you perceive that they judge you, does not define who you really are, especially if they do not know much about you. You define yourself by your actions, thoughts, and beliefs!
- Find entertaining activities that you enjoy to help distract, redirect, and cope. (music, art, games, writing, exercising, talking, etc). I know that there are going to be times that you have to miss out or alter how you participate in certain events or activities. For me, I miss being physically active at theme parks, swimming, practicing sports in the yard with my kids, and teaching. I have no control over some of these limitations. However, I have come to enjoy searching for calmer, less physically demanding activities, such as listening to music, writing, reading by myself and playing board games, video games, and watching movies at home with my family. (Yes, there are days when even these are not possible.)
- Never Give Up! Ask for help when needed and don't try to handle everything independently. Share your fears, concerns, and thoughts with those you trust. Life is not meant to be handled on your own! Having someone to open up to can help you visualize and consider different scenarios, options, and perspectives. They can help you find light and air when you feel like you are suffocating in darkness.
- When seeking medical care, whether it's for physical health, mental health, or both, find a health professional that is an exceptionally good fit for you. It's important to feel respected and confident that you are being listened to, while not feeling inferior or judged. Finding someone that you are comfortable with, can openly communicate with, and whom you trust is looking out for your best interests is invaluable.
- Take care of you! Life, including illness, can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Know that you are NEVER ALONE!