Patricia McMorrow | 02.10.15
Chronic illness has humbled me in this way; it has shown me that needing support from loved ones, and sometimes even total strangers, is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength.
A Sign of Strength
I have always been an independent woman. Even at a young age I insisted on completing tasks on my own. For me, accepting assistance equaled weakness or a lack of ability. Chronic illness has humbled me in this way; it has shown me that needing support from loved ones, and sometimes even total strangers, is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength.
Chronic illness can shatter the life you once knew in a matter of weeks. How is one person supposed to cope with such a monumental event as a diagnosis that will stick with you until your last days? The honest truth is you can’t. One person facing such adversity alone would have no hope of pulling their head above water; you need someone who can help pull you out of the depth.
My conception of time was no longer based around holidays and exciting events. The passing weeks became established by my next appointment, procedure or surgery. I watched the world through waiting room windows wondering where my life had gone.
How to Survive a Chronic Illness: Accept Charity with a Gracious Heart
When your life is stolen from you by disability you feel helpless, alone and weak. Sometimes the only way to not be engulfed by the sorrow of illness is to accept charity with a gracious heart.
At first I struggled and fought charity from others whether it was money, help around the house or a simple ride to doctor’s visits. I desperately wanted to be that independent woman, not realizing I was hurting myself and those around me who had to watch me struggle.
Family – The Biggest Support
My family has been my biggest support from the start, and while they got the grunt of my grumpy attitude toward charity, they taught me it is the only way to survive a chronic illness. There are days when the reality of my illness hits too hard. I feel unequivocally broken, but my family and friends are there to pick up my pieces. They have rotated their lives around my illness and for that I am forever grateful.
We’ve had to make adjustments. Holidays no longer center around food as I have lost the ability to eat and am fed by a tube. Homes are stocked with extra fluffy blankets and heating pads as my vascular system no longer functions properly and I get very cold. Family outings are now planned around activities that my body can handle appropriately without the debilitating after-effect of fatigue. When I am hospitalized there is always someone in the chair next to my bed whether it’s 1 p.m. or 1 a.m. My family will take shifts to make sure I am never alone.
I am never alone. That is what makes chronic illness bearable.
After years of dealing with the beast known as chronic illness, I have learned many things about myself, my coping process and the support system we all must surround ourselves with. Few things in life prepare you to no longer recognize the woman you have come to know in the mirror for so many years. When you look now your reflection shows someone shaped by suffering, pain and loss; However, if you look at her for a little bit longer you see the strength, perseverance and fighting spirit she carries with her at all times just to survive another day.
The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned
The most important thing I have learned throughout my battle is to accept that I am no longer the same woman I was. While yes, that is a hard pill to swallow, it is the only thing that has truly set me free of the burden I so grudgingly dragged with me. Trials change you in a way many do not understand until they have faced their own.
Once I understood and accepted my new limitations, I was able to find happiness in things I could currently accomplish. I no longer burdened myself with failing attempts to execute the tasks my body once could achieve. I found happiness in the wonderful people I connected with who were fighting similar battles and in the beauty life had to offer, even in a body vandalized by disease. I embraced this post-diagnosis woman, one who exuded strength, resilience and vigor.
A Pivotal Moment in My Chronic Illness
The most pivotal moment in your chronic illness is whether you will accept this “new you” or not; accept this new life governed by assistance from others. While the immense internal struggle may last for years, I assure you, once you let go, you will immerse yourself in a journey you never could have imagined. Remember to accept charity with a gracious heart and let others around you be your crutch when you are too weak to stand on your own.
Chanel White is a young woman battling Systemic Scleroderma, among many other conditions. While chronic illness is a full time job, she is also a wife, a Montessori teacher, a blogger and a chronic illness advocate.
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