Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Finding Gratitude

Finding gratitude for what life throws at us isn't always an easy task, especially for those with chronic illness. The daily fights for productivity and survival against a chronic illness often leave us physically and emotionally exhausted with little left over at the end of the day for much else. It isn't uncommon for us to feel as though the world is against at times, that we are being punished, that there is no end in sight. We tend to forget that every moment, every trial has something to be gained from the experience.

Gratitude may be found in the smallest of details, tucked away and overshadowed by the stress and chaos that is life. Our darker moments challenge our ability at gratitude; coercing us to focus on our trials and discount the positive, the strength within us that carries us through, and our own progress. Even with distractions, if we look close enough we can find a bit of gratitude shining through the cracks of the darkness.

During my darkest moments of this year my soul was breaking. My turmoil left me feeling terrified and buried alive. I was suffocating from the dark's heaviness. At the end of the passage, my eyes began to focus while I pieced myself back together, I saw the light. It showed me that I survived. I grew. I was becoming. The light was there the entire time, waiting for me to notice. I focused on my own darkness rather than looking for the light. Our default is to focus on our trials. It is far more difficult to shift our focus to find the light.

I look back on my life and I see the light shining brightly through each dark moment of my health issues that left me near death and the debilitating bouts of depression and PTSD. Without these moments, my life would have followed a different path. Guided by my own health experiences, my education and career paths have focused on the medical field and how I can help others with their own health issues. I'm grateful for the paths I'm following; without the darkness of my health challenges, I would be on a different path and I wouldn't be who I am presently.

This gratitude was not easily found though. It would take years before I would see the goodness of my chronic illness. It can be challenging to see the purpose in the darkness; we are left feeling frustrated, defeated, and tormented at times. I held onto my anger, resentfulness, and pain of chronic illness for far too long. It robbed me of appreciation, gratitude, and happiness. When we begin to release ourselves from the bondage of harmful feelings, we allow ourselves to discover purpose through the light.

You may be going through a distressing time yourself or remain haunted by past experiences. It may be difficult to understand at this moment what the purpose is of your trial and to appreciate the darkness. In the quiet moments of the day let your mind take a moment to reflect upon the goodness of your time. It may be small, but the goodness is there waiting for your acknowledgement and gratitude.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Routine Readjustments

This year has been a monumental year for readjustments in my outlook and coping of mental and physical changes. I have battled changes in my health resulting in an unexpected hospitalization after an 8 year hiatus from the hospital, medical testing resulting in no answers or real solutions to new chronic symptoms, and a mental and emotional reality check resulting in a major transformation of my mind and spirit. It has been a whirlwind of a year!

I am reminded of these events and their power within my life as I prepare for another follow up appointment with my GI doctor. I anxiously await this opportunity to further discuss the possible cause of my symptoms that are reminiscent of delayed gastric emptying. After my hospitalization this year I began experiencing a gradual increase of symptoms and severity - a mix of severe abdominal pain and nausea with occasional vomiting. After trying medications and undergoing further testing I am left with no clear diagnosis for the cause of my symptoms. During my second ER trip I was discharged with the diagnosis of delayed gastric emptying yet after another upper EDG and a barium x-ray I was found to not have any difficulty of my stomach emptying. Bentyl and Carafate medications are aiding in the management of the abdominal pain and reducing the nausea. These issues have not been resolved but are more manageable although the nausea remains more of an issue than I would prefer. As I await my doctor appointment, I've been instructed to maintain a food diary in hopes of pinpointing a culprit of the symptoms. I've realized that when my portions are too large and when I eat sweets I tend to have increased symptoms. And yet meat and vegetables are just as capable of producing severe nausea as well. Such variations increase the difficulty of adjusting to and understanding my health changes.

When I was diagnosed with a degenerative joint in my neck last year, I had a difficult time accepting that I would have life long neck pain. A year later and my neck pain is now a normal everyday experience that I live and work around so that I may continue to participate in and enjoy activities. I had to readjust my thinking and my attitude. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself for having to cope with another chronic health issue. I had to accept and move on or I would forever be plagued by the weight of this chronic condition. And so I am faced with the same requirements for readjusting to chronic nausea and abdominal pain. Hopefully my doctors and I will discover the solution for my symptoms but until then I'm learning what I can do to help reduce and manage my symptoms.

With chronic illness we are prone to ongoing fluctuations in symptoms and the addition of new symptoms as we are faced with a roller coaster of changes throughout our years. Learning to ride out the twists and turns means we make readjustments thereby allowing these changes to become our new norm. It's common for the readjustment period to last a fair amount of time and after we finally become accustomed to our new norms we are once again faced with new changes requiring all of our attention and focus.

With the aid of medical providers and our own self advocacy we are able to work towards identifying and establishing strategies to manage changes to the best of our abilities. The process of readjustment tends to include a trial and error basis as we learn what works best for us and what doesn't. With each step in the management process we further enable ourselves to adjust and learn new ways of coping, gradually ceasing the mourning of how life was prior to a change and instead embracing how we can continue to live. It is through this process that one day we come to no longer know any different than our new norms. It is on this day, we are finally living and living joyfully once again.