Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Staying Positive

Just because the positive side isn’t obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Odd as it may sound, I am actually happier now than before I became ill. 

What changed?  Me.  When I had good health, I did not appreciate it.  I was too busy focusing on what was wrong with my life.  When I got sick, I learned that I needed to change my attitude to survive.

I’ve been blessed with a loving husband, supportive family, and friends who haven’t run for the hills.  These are the positives I focus on. 

It is important to remember that significant others who leave because of illness weren’t going to support you through the tough times anyway, and even healthy people hit rough spots.  The same goes for friends—if they don’t believe you are ill, they weren’t good friends to begin with. 

Family is tougher…you don’t get to pick your family, but you may come to realize that good friends can create the family you never had.  At least living with these types of illnesses shows you which people really care about you.

I recently went through a rough patch that lasted a year and a half.  My husband lost his job two days after we bought our house, my doctor gave up on me, I was the sickest I had ever been, and I was afraid of losing my job because of it.   I managed to stay positive through all of that by not dwelling in it.

A lot of good came from that mess.  My husband started a new job that he is much happier at.  We managed to keep our house for the entire year and a half that he was unemployed by keeping the faith that we’d get through it. 

My doctor giving up on me pushed me to find the Hunter-Hopkins Center and battle my health insurance company to cover one of the doctors there.  I also discovered the center's Facebook page and found a wonderful group of supportive people who understand. 

I think my attitude change has made me a less dreary person and opened up a lot of opportunities for me.

Other positives that have come from this illness are realizing what the most important things in life are and appreciating what I do have and can do.  There are also some pretty amazing people and good friends I wouldn't have met if I wasn’t ill.

It is all a matter of how you look at things.  Positives are hiding in almost any negative situation.  You just need to figure out where to look.

What do you do to stay positive?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Does it Ever Get Easier?

I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I was ready to post on this topic yet, as I haven’t been sure if I could answer the question.  A comment on the subject got me thinking.

I concluded that this is not a simple yes or no question.  It is something that even those of us who have been ill for years may still wonder about.  I think that in some ways it gets easier, but in many ways it doesn’t.

In the 13 years I have had this illness, I have learned a lot about it. I know how it affects me and how everything I do affects it.

I know that I am more sensitive to everything…temperature changes, medications, lack of sleep, stress, etc.  I know that my plans need to be flexible and that I need to make sure there is someplace I can sit and/or rest wherever I go.  I am finally learning to recognize the feeling I get when my heart rate is going over my anaerobic threshold, even if I am not wearing my heart rate monitor.

I do know that certain things without fail will cause me to crash; all it takes is half an hour of anything slightly strenuous, like planting a few flowers.  I know with less than eight hours of sleep, I will not be able to function, and I usually require 10-12 hours.

I know some of the reasons for certain symptoms.  POTS explains why standing up feels like running a marathon.  The use of a heart rate monitor has shown me that the reason many seemingly simple tasks feel so exhausting is because they cause my heart rate to go over my anaerobic threshold.

In those regards, it gets easier because I know certain things I must avoid. The alarm on my heart rate monitor lets me know when I need to stop what I am doing.  Knowing why certain things happen makes me feel that there is at least a reason.  I have also learned to accept that this is how my life is going to be right now and to deal with it the best I can.  Knowing others who are going through the same struggles also helps.

On the other hand, I don’t think the symptoms ever get easier to live with because of their variability.

When dealing with a constant symptom that doesn’t vary it may get easier.  When I actually injure myself, the consistency of the pain makes it easier to handle than the inconsistent fibro pain.  Cuts, bruises, burns, sprains, etc. are constant and consistent pains that after awhile can be ignored (I’m speaking of the pain…after taking appropriate measures to prevent infection or further injury, of course).

Knowing why I can't do something or hearing my heart rate monitor alarm go off does not make the desire to do things go away.  It still takes discipline to stop what I am doing, even though I know the consequences will be terrible if I don't.

Another issue that doesn’t allow for things to get easier is that some crashes seem to come out of nowhere.  We can do everything we are supposed to in order to avoid a crash, flare, or relapse, but we can still be hit with one.  There is an unpredictability factor that is always ready to throw us a curve ball.  No matter how much were prepare, this part does not seem to get easier.
What we can do is accept that we can’t control everything.  We can do our best to prepare for the unexpected, and we may need to change our expectations.

What do you think?  Do you feel that it ever gets easier?