Many years ago I had an accident at work. I won’t detail what happened but I was unable to go back to my job as a tree surgeon in its full capacity. After a very difficult time I decided to return to education, finished a degree and completely changed the course of my life and career.
I never for one moment thought I would have attended university never mind come out with a higher education degree. This 180 degree change of direction led me to meet my wife (more important than the career) and as a family we now live in the heart of Northumberland.
All these opportunities stemmed from a very difficult situation. Without the accident I really could not see me completing a higher education course or maybe not even meeting my wife. Never mind moving to one of the most beautiful counties in England.
I guess the point I am trying to make is I now see the accident as a gift. If someone asks me about the accident and how I managed to cope with it, I never look back at that time as negative only as a positive and as a great opportunity for growth.
It may be easy to look back on situations and view them as times of positive change and growth. However, going through such a time is another story. Chronic illness, is as it states, a long term situation and never to be taken lightly. Chronic illness involves many aspects of difficulties including physical and mental pain, loss of roles, testing relationships, financial loss and until acceptance can be fully realised the loss of hope for the future.
Acceptance is one of the first steps to healing if we can accept even one of the difficult lessons chronic illness affords then we step on to the road to recovery.
I do not advocate accepting the dis-ease state, but to accept the opportunities these difficulties offer.
I heard a saying recently that stuck with me “It’s the grit that makes the pearl”. I believe this saying to be true. Without resistance we could not grow taller. This does not mean we need to cope with difficult situations on our own. This would not be reasonable as we all need help at various times in our lives, none more so than now.
How to learn from chronic illness is a lesson in itself. Amidst the flurry of pain and distress, what is there to learn? My answer would start with the events leading up to the illness. What were the events that surrounded you prior to you becoming unwell?
My M.E or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome started immediately after a viral infection. However, prior to that acute episode I guess there was quite a high level of stress from work. I was not eating and drinking very healthily and I ignored the signals from my body to seek help and slow down. There is no one to blame for this, least of all myself, I just did not know how best to take care of my health.
I now know more than I did back then and have learnt a great deal about many aspects of health including diet, managing stress, listening to my body and most of all, the joy of living in the present moment. I will no longer take life and my health for granted.
One of the most practical solutions to living in the mist of a difficult time is to take each day moment by moment. There are many different ways to achieve this including Mindfulness meditation and Mindful awareness. If we catch ourselves thinking about the future be it hope or fear we are not present in reality we are living through our thoughts. Although thoughts are important (they help create our lives) they are not always true to our reality, even though they sometimes cause our bodies to react like they are.
Living in the present moment is quite a powerful tool to have at hand, although it takes repeated practice to develop. During practice we can learn to break any unhelpful thought patterns including worrying or anxiety about our future. Over time the benefits become clear and we approach life with a calmer more accepting outlook.
Re-establishing the present moment is difficult at first and requires some expert guidance. There are many techniques including using body sensations, the breath and your surroundings as an anchor to the present.
In the video below Jon Kabat Zinn gives you a great introduction into Mindfulness and how to apply the techniques in everyday life. Jon Kabat Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Centre for Mindfulness and author of many Mindfulness books.
Contact your Primary Care Provider or General Practitioner for more information on Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Courses in your area.
Please see my current Blog series “Road to Recovery”, which offers advice on many aspects of ME/CFS recovery.
All comments are welcome.