Healing from an autoimmune disease isn’t just about taking steps to heal your body. It’s also about taking care of your mental health and changing your mindset. Our day to day lives take their toll and society isn’t structured to take our conditions into account.
After two years of being full of anger, resentment, and letting the stress of the external world influence me to the brink of destruction, I learned some crucial lessons. I hope my realizations can help you on your healing journey as well.
Accept, release, repeat
Accept who you are at the moment, whether you like it or not. Release everything that is mentally holding you back — whether that be pressure, anger, stress, or loss of control over your body. Pretend all of the emotions associated with your diagnosis are a balloon and visualize it floating away.
The first to step towards healing is acceptance of your current self and situation. After diagnosis, there is a new playing field and denying it will only irritate an already-inflamed situation. It’s time to up your game. But first, you must accept where you are.
Your body betrayed you and you feel like your temple was reduced to ruins. But did we die? Nope. We are still here and still fighting. You are likely carrying a lot of self-hate. It feels like you’ve been cheated on by the person you trusted most, yourself.
You live with an invisible chronic disease. That automatically makes you one of the toughest, most badass people in the room. Let that sink in.
Use that as the basis to start loving yourself again. I know it’s counterintuitive to use the diagnosis that “destroyed your life” to love yourself, but give it a try.
Next, find something else that you love about yourself and think about that every time the self-hatred starts to rear its ugly head.
What three things are you grateful for? Write them down every morning along with what you love about yourself. Did you get to wake up in a warm cozy bed? Do you get to have a nice hot shower today and eat a warm meal? Take a few seconds every morning to be thankful for what you do have rather than focusing on what has been stripped from you. Healing isn’t just physical, it’s a mindset. You likely still have so much to be grateful for, start centering yourself around that.
Lower your expectations
It’s not that people don’t care what you’re going through. It’s just that the vast majority don’t understand. Having an unmet expectation of how people should treat me made me harbor a lot of hate and anger towards them and society as a whole.
Always remember, you don’t get it until you get it.
Break the cycle
It’s so easy to get trapped in a cycle of negativity. You just keep repeating the same behaviors expecting things to eventually get better. What is the definition of insanity again?
We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day that we forget what is actually important. You feel bad, then everything turns bad, life is bad, it’s all falling apart. Self-fulfilling prophecy incarnate. This cycle will continue and compound as long as you feed into it. Stop feeding the beast.
Will the world come to a grinding halt if you don’t fold the laundry tonight? Will your family die from malnutrition you pop in a frozen dinner instead of cooking? No. And depending on if you’re a good cook or not, honestly, they may enjoy it more. Stop overpromising, overcommitting and overdoing. You must take the time to recharge and take care of yourself. No one will do it for you. Other’s expectations and sometimes the ones you place on yourself will run you right into the ground.
It’s okay to be a little “selfish” now and then to a degree. If you don’t know your limits, define them. Once you’re able to discern how much is too much, strive to keep your schedule as full or as empty as you need it to be.
Find your balance
Find what makes you feel better. If you need to cry, then let it all out (but not for too long, okay?). If you need to take just a few minutes to do anything that makes you feel better, then take it! Spend a lazy Saturday in your pajamas. Go somewhere scenic and enjoy the beauty of the world. Schedule a day for the kids to go somewhere so you can relax and recharge. This doesn’t mean binge on a half-gallon of ice cream every day. But, it means always find a balance in what you do and find the sweet spot of health and happiness. You can’t (and shouldn’t) use your illness as an excuse to check out completely or avoid reality, but use it as a way to find harmony and balance every day.
Admit when you need help
It’s not a sign of weakness … at least that’s what I tell myself. I’m continuously working to overcome this feeling. Can I do everything myself? Sure! But, what I found is that there are a lot of people willing to help you if you just ask. Not only are they willing to help but if they knew you needed help, they would want to help you. We build communities to be together, we create relationships to support each other we are here on this earth to be a part of something together. Never underestimate the power of human connection.
Take action and rebuild
You have the ability to be more than your diagnosis. You know you have to ability to change your perspective, your balance, and your life. But life will not change until you put one foot in front of the other. Life can and will get better, but you have to make it so. You have control over your life and happiness — take it!
You probably lost a lot after your diagnosis, a part of yourself, a way of life, self-worth, the image you have cultivated of yourself, and your health. But, what can you do to rebuild your life? What can you do to regain the feeling of control over your situation right now? Name one small thing and act on it. What will make you start to feel whole again?
There are steps you can actively take to change the way you feel and your outlook, but you must define these steps for yourself. If you say there is nothing that you can do, you are wrong. You can do anything you put your mind to, just put some positive energy behind it. After all, can’t never could.
I am FAR from perfect. I am still on my healing journey, and always will be. But, I can and will do my best to face it with a positive attitude and you to do the same.
I know it’s hard to “just be positive” when you’re in pain and I know it sucks when someone says it to you (ie: you kinda want to slap them).
I get it. But, maintaining a positive attitude is what gets me through the toughest and most painful days.
You’re a Phoenix and you’ll rise again from what once was dead and you’ll be fucking glorious. You need to believe it.
Rise up and shine, friends.