On life’s amazing journey, we all can end up falling into potholes and encountering roadblocks to our progress. This is true for anyone, but particularly for those of us learning to thrive in life while coping with chronic illness. Here are some of the impediments to avoid on your journey to ongoing fulfillment in life:
Comparison to Others: This is just wrong for so many reasons; but for those of us with chronic illness it is completely unrealistic to compare yourself to a person who is not dealing with your particular issues. While we do want to emphasize our strengths, and I for one do not want to call attention to my afflictions, we still need to give ourselves a break when it comes to assessing our abilities in comparison to someone who is blessed with healthier DNA. Do the best you can for you, and ignore comparisons of your performance in life with other people.
Focusing On the Present: We hear a lot these days about staying “in the moment” and focusing on “the Now.” Well, that really sucks when you are hooked up to chemotherapy, or an iron lung, or a dialysis machine, etc. When I am in the midst of an unpleasant medical procedure or treatment (which happens regularly), I just remind myself, “This is only Temporary; there is life beyond this.” I do not focus on the present. Live in the past, the future, a fantasy world, or wherever helps you get through a tough time. The tough times are only temporary.
Believing What You Hear: Those of us with chronic conditions are often told many things by qualified and unqualified people trying to “help” us (or, not). I can’t tell you how many times in the 58 years since I was diagnosed with diabetes, how many people have enlightened me with stories of their old uncle Charley who lost a leg, or an eye, or shot himself, due to diabetes. I have also been offered miracle cures from vitamin pills to exotic, expensive, disgusting diets; or a trip to Moscow for an unapproved surgery. We need to remember that even highly reputable medical professionals often get it wrong. I was told repeatedly by a world-famous heart surgeon that I was sure to die during the quadruple bypass surgery that he was performing, but that he at least had to “try.” After I survived the surgery, he told me that I would live a long life, but that I would most certainly be depressed and anxious for the rest of my life. I fortunately proved him wrong on that one too, and without the help of psychotropic medication. You just have to pay attention to what your intuition, and your Higher Power are telling you.
Ignoring Intuition: There is research which has found that people who have chronic illness tend to have a more highly developed intuition. Intuition is a function of our brain and all of our senses which work together to give us impressions of our environment and our lives in general. It is composed of conscious and unconscious impressions of the world. These impressions are highly accurate, even though we are usually unaware of the steps we took to arrive at that impression. None-the-less, pay attention to your intuition! You will have a lingering “feeling,” or thought, despite what you may be hearing or seeing. Intuition does not take the form of fear. It might take the form of a “warning,” but an emotion of fear is typically not attached. More often it is just giving you a direction to do or not do something.
Giving In to Guilt or Shame: We often blame ourselves for our physical condition. This creates a self-perpetuating downward spiral in our lives. You will block and sabotage any good thing in your life and your healing if you let guilt or shame take root. There is nothing to be gained from assigning blame for your condition. Even if it was partially caused from “life style” choices, you can just forgive yourself, and move forward in a positive direction. My dear friend, Rev. Dr. Robert A. Schuller says, “God’s promises have nothing to do with our goodness.” In other words, you can really screw up, and still be blessed by God.
Getting Caught Up in the Zeitgeist: There is no one prevailing mood of our time in this country, but there certainly is a seemingly growing sense of anger and fear in our society. This developing zeitgeist can very negatively influence our entire lives. It is so easy to simply try to catch up on the latest news, only to be swept up in a fury of rants and raves by so-called “experts” who are outraged by something in society. They stir up all the anger and fear that they possibly can, and make a career based on it. Since the beginning of modern economic history, people have learned that there is money to be made in preying on people’s fears and anger. Politicians, deodorant marketers, religions, and parents have all used those emotions to manipulate and control others. Resist fear and it’s offspring, anger! They will also sabotage your success and fulfillment. Only hope and faith will empower you.
Hypocrisy: We are all hypocrites, daily. We all have deeply held beliefs and values in life; but most of us are very inconsistent in actually living them. Take a close look at your actual beliefs and values; then try to match them as closely as possible to your thoughts and behaviors.
Avoiding these potholes and roadblocks will keep you out of the ditch.
Christopher Knippers, Ph.D., August 17, 2016