Monday, December 5, 2016

Existing + Resisting: Creating Purpose With Chronic Illness

My eyes divert to the walls of the living room, a brief pause from browsing pages of social media. The posts from former peers (and strangers) are a reminder that I am trapped in the banalities of chronic illness. It is yet another day spent in front of the 'boob tube'. My greatest achievement is walking unassisted to the bathroom in a dizzying stupor. Grabbing a new skein of yarn from across the hall without the activity provoking a stroke-like episode is cause for celebration. Although this is a life, one should hardly call this living.

This is existing, existing while resisting the urge to surrender to the overwhelming jealousy of those able to live their lives however they please. You know, the ones who are sickeningly healthy as they complain about awaking for their 5:00 AM run prior to attending a morning lecture, fulfilling a double work shift, and protesting against their demanding boss for infringing on an hour of their active social lives. Oh, the woes.

"It must be nice doing nothing." "I wish I had the time to just sit at home."  "You must be lazy." 

No, it is not nice doing nothing. Living vicariously through the latest Netflix hit is not my version of Utopia. But it is not being lazy. It is called being sick. And it is easy to allow judgments to lure us into the trap of doubting self-worth.

We have a purpose. We each have God-given gifts and talents.
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
More often than not, said gifts and talents would not be applied in a beneficial manner had we never encountered less than favorable life obstacles. Struggle puts purpose into perspective. I know it has for me! That is definitely not to say there are not (way too many) occasions when envy supersedes purpose. For lack of a better term, chronic illness is sucky. It is difficult not to become bitter over the thought that others can better use their God-given talents because their circumstances and gifts differ. A gift exchange, please?!    

It is possible to revive purpose and restore feelings of worth though.

Find a new hobby: 

After symptoms began to interfere with daily routine, none of my hobbies were conducive to my health. The softball coach does not appreciate their only catcher darting off the field for the loo every five minutes or nearly fainting during postural changes. Receiving a college scholarship for sports is now a distant illusion, but doable hobbies can be employed in a productive manner.
  • Do you like to sew? Create blankets for a charity. 
  • Is writing your thing? Start a blog or a journal. It might be great material a later novel. 
  • Looking forward to the latest read? Attend a book club. Volunteer at a library.   
  • Adult coloring? Compose and mail encouraging cards.  
  • Are you active in social media? By posting an image of your life in front of the 'boob tube' when you really just want to give up is an act of courage that has a positive impact. 
Think Towards the Future:

Perhaps this seems trivial. Why bother planning a future around uncertainty? Make a bucket or short to-do list for the day. Crossing off even a lone task establishes a sense of accomplishment. Not all dreams must be put to rest beneath a white hospital sheet.

Reach Out to Others: 

Believe it or not, there are people with similar burdens. There might be somebody out there who feels as if they may not make it through their struggles without mutual understanding. Reach out. While original intentions are aimed at benefiting them, they could help you also. Such a connection often results in lifelong friendships.

Despite the monotony of the chronic life (or any hardship), we are here for a reason.