You may not like reading ‘what your illness taught you’. As if you have something to learn. As if the illness is the teacher, the one in control, and you the pupil, the one who has to listen and do what the teacher says.

Living with a challenging health issue can feel like that. You being at the mercy of the illness or injury, dancing to its tune, being obliging, feeling like you are not in control.

That is not my aim here. You didn’t ask for the illness or injury to happen, yet you have to live with its impact. My aim is to help you proactively identify what your illness taught you this past year and therefore what changes you may wish to make next year. You doing this puts you in control.

This blog outlines five questions to help you do that.

I also write this for those of you in a caring/supporting role because you too are impacted by your loved one’s health issue. And when I say illness, I also mean injury or any kind of health issue you find challenging.

Picture of a man holding a large open blank book which has the titles ‘Your 2018’ and ‘Your Learning’ on the pages. There is the question ‘What have you learned from your illness or injury this past year?’

What your illness taught you – The good stuff

What was one good thing which came out of you or a loved one having the illness, injury or another type of health challenge?

Good things can come out of not-so-good and downright bad situations. It may take some work to find those good things. But looking for the good balances out the sad and bad things about a health challenge. And that is the aim of this question.

The good thing may be about you as a person, the people around you, or your life circumstances. You may have learnt who is super supportive, strengths you have, and even abilities you didn’t know you had. You may have learnt to take more time for yourself. Or that living your life at a slower pace is better for you. Or taking care of your needs is not selfish but absolutely necessary.

Were there any other good things? You don’t have to limit it to just one. Find as many as you can.

How can you build on these good things next year?

This is about building on the good things you learned with intention to make sure they stick around in your life.

For example, have you discovered an ability you didn’t know you had? Like a high level of resilience? An artistic talent? Something else? How can you exercise this ability more next year?

Or did you make new friendships? How can you be in contact with these people more often?

Or did you and your partner discover how supportive you are to each other?

What your illness taught you – The bad stuff

What has been the worst thing about having to deal with the illness or injury this year?

I don’t mean to be a downer here. Or open the door for endless moaning. The purpose of this question is to acknowledge the hard bits. To give them their place in the narrative of your (or your loved one’s) health issue and life. By doing that, you put them in their place so they don’t run riot in your life. That way you can move forward from it.

This may be about symptoms that are not easy to manage. Dealing with the uncertainty of fluctuating symptoms and/or relapse of the health issue, the loss of friends who seemed to have vanished when your illness arrived, a loss of a bit of your health and sense of control, confidence, or something else. It can be things that you miss. Or dealing with difficult feelings.

List them. And ensure to spend an equal amount of time on the first question too. Remember, this is about keeping as much of a balance as you can. And I don’t want you to unpack and live in this question, i.e. only focus on the bad stuff.

What are you learning from these not-so-good things?

Identifying what you are learning from the bad bits makes having gone thru them a little more worthwhile. You come out of it with something useful to you to help you move forward.

It’s akin to the saying, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ You didn’t choose for you or your loved one to have a challenging health issue, so how can you extract some goodness from it.

Picture of a woman holding lemons asking ‘What am I going to do with all these lemons?’ A man responds, ‘Make lemonade! We like lemonade.’ The caption reads making something good from your Illness or injury.

The learning can be about your preferences for the future, things you need to learn, what you may need to let go of or something else.

For example, by losing some friends, you may have learned what qualities are important to you in a friendship.

You may have identified you need to learn how to manage some symptoms differently like fatigue or chronic pain to have a better quality of life.

Learning how to deal with the difficult feelings so they don’t feel like they are dominating your life may be higher on your agenda.

You may have learned that you need to let go of achieving things to feed your sense of self-worth.

Finally, what is it about you that has enabled you to get this far?

This is a favourite question of mine. I ask it a lot. The purpose of this question is to remind you of your strengths and abilities. Of all the good qualities about yourself that you really value. Because you have many. Sit with these qualities, strengths, passions and abilities and cherish them. And ask yourself this question again from time to time.

What your illness taught you this year, you can take into next year – what to do more of, what to continue doing, what to stop and start doing.

I am actually writing this blog in New York City. I arrived yesterday for my holidays. So this blog will be the last one for this year. I am aiming to publish 2019’s first blog on 9th January. In the meantime, have a lovely holiday season however you are celebrating it and a very happy new year!

What’s it like for you?

What has been the most important thing you learned from your or your loved one’s health challenge this year? Are there any changes you plan to make next year as a result? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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