Recently I had a breakthrough on the mental health side of living with a chronic illness, it was something simple and so basic but helped me a lot. It was the fact that we can’t be perfect all the time. It’s impossible and frankly exhausting. With all the planning and preparing we can do, obstacles will still come our way, and they will change even the best plan we had.
I’m going to be honest, I’m a guy with a small case of OCD. I like my systems and I like to follow them the best I can. The idea behind my routines and habits is, if I have a set-out plan for what needs to be done on a daily basis, I can follow it over and over again which will make life easier.
The problem that many chronically ill patients have, is that we can’t be perfect and even if we have all the energy in the world, there are going to be days that our systems either get pushed aside or we just won’t be able to follow them for a variety of reasons. Normally it's easy to get upset by this but we have to realize something, living with a chronic illness and doing everything we can to make life easier with it, is a large task and one we can’t do perfectly all the time.
So what do we have to do? We have to learn how to adapt to what is happening, but that it’s also okay not to be perfect. We are going to make mistakes, we are going to make choices that may even hurt our health, we are going to get tired and say “I’ll pass on that task tonight”, and this is okay. As long as you are trying to make the best choices, most of the time.
What I learned is that there are different parts of living with a disease which we all have to accept. I hope sharing these different levels of acceptance can help you too.
- Accepting the Challenges - Life is going to be different from now on. We are going to have a new body, both mentally and physically. This will lead to a variety of challenges along our journey. The sooner we accept this, the faster we will be able to learn to live with our disease and master what will need to be done to live the best life possible with our new circumstances.
- Developing Your Adversity Muscle - Challenges are going to arise. Some may be long-term, some may be just a few hours or even minutes, but no matter what this will happen. The quicker we can accept that the obstacle course which we have been thrown into is one that we have no choice but to navigate, then we can develop what I like to call our “adversity muscle” and grow this muscle to help us work our way through any challenges we face.
- We Can’t Be Perfect - Living with a chronic illness is a 24/7 job and one that we sadly don’t get paid for and didn’t choose. But we have to do our best to succeed at this job. We really don't have any other choice. I was thinking about this the other day, and the thought came to mind “If someone forced me to take a 24/7 job, what would I say?” The first thing that came to mind is “You know I’m going to make mistakes then? Right?”. So we just have to accept that this job will not be performed perfectly, mainly because it would be impossible. Accept the fact mistakes will be made and you will have to use the adversity muscle to overcome these mistakes as well.
The bottom line is that accepting your diagnosis and illness isn't the end of the acceptance process. In fact, this is just the beginning of it. There will be challenges on the long road ahead and we will need to find a variety of ways to overcome these challenges.
Putting systems in place will help and finding routines that can guide you will put you on the right path. Don't be upset if you divert off this road for a little while. The important thing is to find your way back and put in the work to make your life as easy as possible with your illness. It's going to be difficult enough without having good habits in place, so why not try everything you can to beat your disease?
Want something that can guide you along your journey, help create routines, and assist you in being more productive with your disease? Check out the Better Life Patient Journal. It's specifically designed to help patients on a daily basis manage their disease and improve their life.