Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
The first step in dealing with a major illness is denial. For me, the denial stage lasted two decades. I knew, even as an undergraduate, that something wasn’t right. But each time I’d go to a doctor, they would fail to pinpoint the illness. In 1986, most doctors knew little about fibromyalgia. So without a diagnosis, I could call myself “crazy” or deny my illness. I chose denial.
When my fatigue slowed me down, I just worked longer to accomplish the same tasks. For the most part, I kept up with my peers. At least on paper. But since I worked longer, I networked less. While they were out having drinks with the boss, I was finishing up some notes at the office. When others took vacations, I used sick leave.
As my health continued to falter, I worked harder—both at my job, and at efforts to maintain good health. I ran. I trained. I dieted. I studied nutrition. I studied herbs. I studied medicine. I drove my family crazy with fanatic efforts to maintain health. Nonetheless, the day arrived when I could no longer do the job for which I was being paid. Denial was not possible anymore. I had to admit I was ill. Ironically, this was when the doctor’s identified my fibromyalgia.
The next stage is anger. Anger for the years spent working harder at a job when I could have been managing stress. Anger for the surgeries I withstood that did not help either my pain or my fatigue. Anger for the medications I took that damaged my liver and altered my metabolism. Anger that I was given antibiotics 6 times as an infant. Anger that I never traveled when I was young, and when it did not hurt to sit in a plane. Anger that my kids have to watch me lay in bed when I should be teaching, coaching, and inspiring them. Anger that my co-workers never even said good-bye, or called to see if I was still alive. Anger that when I had an income, I wasted it on electronics and gadgets rather than paying off my house. Anger that insurance will pay for medications that make you more sick, but won’t touch those alternative therapies that heal. I’m told that anger is normal, and expressing it is healthy. But no one wants to be around when anger is being expressed.
So, one way past the anger stage is to put that anger into motion. Find a cause. Identify what you can do. I can write. Slowly. I can grow some of my own food. I can teach my children that tending your own garden ensures better nutrition than can be bought at the store. I can show others what is missing from chemically treated foods. I can experiment with ways to heal. And I can build those relationships I failed to develop when I was working to keep up with healthier people.
If I merely watch the world race past me, I find my health declines. It is only during those times that I become disabled. Life is not a spectator sport. I must engage. .