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Grieving with a Chronic Illness

This 20-year-old blogger and survivor of multiple chronic illnesses describes her grief process. You may be surprised to see that even on a somber topic like mourning loss of health, she writes from an outlook of gratitude; below she shares why she chooses her approach.
If you like this post, check out the article she wrote last week- it will give you a boost of inspiration!

Life with an Illness

With a chronic illness, there is no cure. It is all about treating the symptoms and learning to live life with it. It’s like an enemy you can’t get rid of. Its hard to cope with at times. For me, I was working, in college, and training for a half marathon, and one day it hit me like a truck. Within 2 days I was in the hospital. So going from constantly on the go and enjoying a normal 20 year old life to daily appointments, constantly miserable, and not being able to take care of myself alone. Its normal to have grieving stages while being sick, here are ways I grieve with having several chronic illnesses.

  • The anger phase.

Its okay to be angry, I completely understand this phase. I’ve lost a lot like my job, a lot of people in my life disappeared, and I can’t do a…

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“Life will break you” quote Louise Erdrich

“Life will break you.

Nobody can protect you from that,

and living alone won’t either,

for solitude will also break you with its yearning.

You have to love.

You have to feel.

It is the reason you are here on earth.

You are here to risk your heart.

You are here to be swallowed up.

And when it happens that you are broken,

or betrayed, or left, or hurt,

or death brushes near,

let yourself sit by an apple tree

and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps,

wasting their sweetness.

Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

Louise Erdrich

Grief, Relief and May Showers

It washes over you like the song that makes your heart pound. Like the goose bumps your body forgets to have any more. It’s like a constant shiver, and then sometimes, all at once- like being startled. Then, it shatters so loudly into a million pieces all over you and you think your insides might have been shredded along with it.

If you have grieved a sudden loss, you know this feeling.

If you have lived through multiple crises, traumas, or losses, you know this feeling all too well. And if this is a very familiar feeling to you, I am sorry for all of the pain and shock you have endured throughout your life.

************

Good news: my body has had its first good days in 4 years! The past year, I could feel improvement, however every inch of progress has come with a setback in another area of my health. So, it has been a slow year of trade offs and feeling as though my head, body and brain have been fighting against one another. Since I couldn’t make physical progress, I took advantage of the slow return to clarity of my mind. I have been focusing on improving my brain functioning, my speech, fine motor skills, trying to regain memory, and making strong connections with others again online. In four years time, that seems like minor recovery, but when you can’t wait around for your body, you do whatever you can with the tools you do have. I know everyone reading with a disability, in recovery after stroke or an accident, or with a chronic illness understands that sentiment.

I’m not new to chronic illness as I’ve had severe chronic pain for 10 years, however dealing with multiple chronic illnesses in such a debilitating way started in 2011. Actually, last week was the 4 year anniversary of the procedures that caused all of the major issues that have so changed my body, mind, and the lives of my husband and our families. No matter what, I feel as though a part of me will always be left back in May, 2011. And a huge piece of my subconscious is still 22 when the problems first began. I think losing health stops time in a way- or changes the way time moves and how we move through it.

I thought I was done grieving for my loss of health, but after becoming bed bound at 28, the grief process started all over again. Every time something else is lost to my body, I have to mourn first before I can accept it. Several years into my journey with chronic pain, I decided to celebrate the “Spooniversary” that began in 2004. It was no longer a melancholy day of loss; instead I decided to celebrate the endurance, support, and faith it took to traverse it. Ten years was a milestone. But all of my newer illness acquisitions are a different ballgame. Maybe next May I will be ready to also celebrate how much this body and mind have endured since 2011. For now, I think I’m just now beginning to come to terms with much of what has taken place over the past 4 years.

Last week was also the anniversary of the passing of my best friend. Every year at this time, I reflect on all of the ways she changed my life, all of the soulful years we spent learning and growing together. The way we became each other’s family at a time when we both were desperate for a safe space to call home. We became each other’s peaceful place in the world. The time has finally come, so many years later that I can look back on her life and our years spent together and feel more joy than sorrow. Her life continues to affect mine. Her spirit echoes into me every day. I think of her words, her soul, her love, and I cannot help but feel love still flowing like a river from her memory. Because of her, I know that a person can have more than one soul mate- and those rare relationships can save you from life’s ugliness in the most beautiful way. These unique connections can ground us to the world so we don’t float away when the earth seems to have lost its gravity. I remember her every day as she is part of me, and always will be. But as you know, there are those days, those celebrations, those dates marked on your personal calendar which tug at your heart just a bit more. The week of Mother’s Day is always that for me.

And the same week, without warning, like a loud crashing vessel falling from the sky and onto our roof. Gravity was lost on the earth again. Another confusing life circumstance. So many unanswered questions. Shattered pieces all around- you don’t know where to begin the pickup. For now, I don’t even have the words to express what I am feeling or what just happened in our family. This new current issue is certainly unexpected. I think May is definitely NOT my month!

I will look forward to a time when my needs aren’t in the hands of others, and I can be the one helping once again. I am always very thankful to have those in my life willing to do the things I no longer can for myself. Having better health days lately makes me feel like that time might be closer within my reach.

When I look back on this past year, and how my body has been swapping one good thing for another big setback, the past couple weeks feel very similar to that. My body is giving me a green light to move forward in recovery, while life is ripping the rug out in another way. If I were not grieving, I would be so excited about progress. It does help soften the blow, so I’m very grateful to have the added strength at this time especially. That is life, isn’t it? The universe is always balancing itself.

******

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, bloggers and those on social networking have been doing awesome work sharing and advocating about equal care, I wanted to add something as well. People who are bed bound or home bound do not have the same access to mental health care. Whether you have expensive private insurance or Medicare/Medicaid, it is nearly impossible in most areas to find a “Home Mental Health Professional”. Most psychologists and counselors are not covered or willing to do home visits, nor are they trained in distance therapy (online counseling). There is an abundance of web therapy now, however much of it is not covered under insurance and does not always adhere to guidelines for keeping records and evaluating. For those who are incapacitated from chronic, progressive or mental illness, there are a myriad of psychological implications and we do not have the same treatment options as those who can drive to an office, sit in a waiting room, and then sit and talk aloud with a counselor in person. We know we are losing desperate brothers and sisters who have severe chronic pain, chronic illness and mental illness conditions. In the near future, home therapy options NEED to become more easily available and covered by providers.

Take the Stigma Free Pledge for Mental Health Awareness Month 2015

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