If you become ill or experience an injury or surgery it can have a far reaching impact on your entire life. I’ve talked before about My Story and even though my life was never in danger it was changed dramatically.
A lot of the time I downplayed how sick I was, even to myself. Partly as I could stay stronger if I didn’t think I was ill, but partly as I felt like a fraud. My illness wasn’t life threatening. Pretty life impacting yes, but my life wasn’t in danger and this made me feel like it wasn’t ‘bad enough’.
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I’ve realised though that regardless if you are struggling because of an illness, an injury or a stressful period in your life, it’s still hard. It’s still REAL, very real. Yes, other people may be going through really difficult things which you may view as worse, but that doesn’t make how you feel any less real.
Whilst I was ill there were days and weeks which seemed like a blur. I don’t remember much about them as I was so out of it. I’m still not sure how I carried on with my normal life for so long.
Other than feeling rotten one, of the hardest things I found is that my illness took away my main passions. I love food (buying it, reading about it, cooking it, eating out), my job and exercising. My illness meant that so many of my favourite foods were now off limits, working at my normal capacity became impossible and I had to accept the fact that I really had no choice, but to take some time off, and exercising was just not an option most days. This was really tough, but I also learnt so much from this time. My doctor joked that maybe I became ill to learn how to be more patient!
1. Do what you can not what you can’t
This was very good advice that I was given. I tried hard not to focus on what I couldn’t do, but on what I can. This also helped a good friend of mine whose rugby career was put to an end due to injury. By focusing on what he could do and not what he couldn’t he regained his strength and is now representing Great Britain in Triathlon in his age range.
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2. Be patient and give yourself time, self compassion and rest
So easy to say but so hard to do. I tried hard to listen to my body and rested when I needed to and to give myself a break on days when it was tough. This is something I still work on everyday, but so very important.
3. Be grateful for what you have
Slightly corny maybe, but I aimed to continually count my blessings. I focused on how grateful I was for the elements of my health I did have and on the little things that make the difference in life.
4. Get the support of your friends and family
I found it hard to ask for help and greatly value my independence, but I found that when I did ask for support friends and family actually were pleased as they wanted to do something to help.
5. Find new passions
When my normal passions were taken away or changed I looked for other things to bring me to life. I feel that having a focus in life is so important. This also allowed me to try lots of new things that I wouldn’t necessarily have considered before, extreme knitting anyone?
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5. Get Outside
Recently I read about research which showed that a 15 minute walk each day helped people with depressions as much as antidepressants. I can understand this and I also believe that spending all day looking at the same four walls is a pretty quick route to driving yourself up those walls! If you can walk outside, if you can sit outside then do. Even if you have to stay in bed and can’t get outside can you open a window or ask someone to bring in flowers or a plant? I think a little of nature and the outside really does make a difference.
I still have good days and bad days. I now have more good days than bad days which is something I am grateful for. Will I ever be back to ‘normal’? – I don’t even know if I want to be. As cliche as it may sound I have learnt so much from this experience. More than anything I have learnt that I need balance in my life. I’m not sure I want to go back to being as high octane as I was. This is something that I still have to practice every single day though. I love to be on the go, be active and to achieve my goals. I’m not a patient person! To start with I thought I should be ‘stronger’ and to not to have succumb to an illness but I’m starting to realise that it’s ok if my body needs rest. Do keep reminding me though!
Do you have a story to share? Let me know what you did when life took your passions away.
This is part of a series on illness and injury. Make sure you don’t miss more insight and advice from women sharing their inspirational stories and this month’s interview with Rachel Stanley who talks about Osteopathy and advice she gives her clients.