When others tell you to ‘move on from your illness’ or ‘shouldn’t you let it go now’ whenever you speak about it, you can feel guilty. Like you’ve done something wrong. It can also feel like your experience of the illness or injury, treatment and everything it means for you going forwards in your life, including all the difficulties, are completely disregarded. You can feel lonely.

Maybe you had cancer, the onset of a chronic neurological condition, heart attack or something else. Whatever you had, it has fundamentally changed your body. You have also changed as a result.

Two friends are standing and speaking to one another. A woman with short dark hair is saying, "I still feel the impact of the illness and treatment." Her blond hair friend is rolling her eyes and saying, "You need to let it go and move on once and for all." The point of this is the illness still impacts the woman physically and emotionally. So what do we mean by letting go and moving on from an illness or injury? Read the blog to find out why I don't think you need to move on from your illness.

How can you move on from your illness when the illness and all it represents is still with you?

It can be hard to move on because you may be living with a daily reminder of the illness or injury in terms of ongoing symptoms, medication and how you need to look after yourself.

But what do we mean by ‘move on from your illness or injury’?

Let’s unpick those phrases ‘move on’ and ‘let go’.

When someone says to you, ‘Shouldn’t you let go of it?’ or ‘Isn’t it time you moved on from your illness?’ several things could be going on.

They may be genuinely worried for you, concerned you’re not finding it easy to cope and maybe even wondering what they can do to help. They may even make suggestions of what you can do to let go and move on. This may come from a genuine place on their part.

When others say those phrases, they may be tired of hearing the same story. Even if they’re a friend or family member. This can be due for all sorts of reasons.

Some people do not have the capacity to hear the same thing again. People will have different levels of capacity for listening and responding.

Or they don’t want to be reminded of a difficult time even though the illness or injury happened to you not them. It could be what you say sparks anxiety in them whether consciously or unconsciously, and they don’t want to feel/experience that.

When someone says to you, ‘Isn’t it time you moved on from your illness?’ it could be they don’t have the capacity to hear something more than once or a few times. But it’s not nice to be on the receiving end of such a question.… Share on X

Letting go and moving on from your illness can mean ‘stop talking about it’

Or even, ‘Forget that it happened.’

We can end up stigmatising difficult feelings and emotions in our society so talking about them get stigmatised too. We’ve just learned a different way to say it, i.e. let go and move on from your illness.

As for forgetting that it happened, of course some days you may feel like that. That’s normal. But trying to forget it in an unhealthy way can be a form of denial.

But talking about it is a way to make sense of your experience

Even if it is 5, 10, 15 years or more since you had the illness or injury. It takes people different lengths of time to make sense of a difficult experience. And that’s ok. There are no specific timescales for how long this could take. We are all different.

If you look at trauma literature, talking about your experience is a way to make sense of what is often a traumatic experience, which a serious illness or injury can be. McGrath (2001) states that people ‘work through their feelings’ by ‘telling their story a hundred times’ and this is the ‘means by which they begin to dispel the feelings of distress attached to their memories’.

You may talk about your experience 100 times, 50 times, 10 times, or once. There is no ‘right’ number.

Also, as time moves on, you change and so look at and review the experience of your illness or injury with new eyes. And you may need to make sense of that too in addition to the original experience of your illness or injury. You may also notice that how you talk about your illness or injury may change too.

As time moves on, you change and so look at and review the experience of your #illness or #injury with new eyes. And you may need to make sense of that too in addition to the original experience of your illness or injury. Share on X

So can you say you move on from your illness?

The illness can stay with you in many forms. It’s part of you and your life.

As a result of the illness or injury, you may get involved in campaigning and advocacy work. Or you may go to a support group, run a support group, start a blog, build a website of resources and useful information, or even start a charity. You may do none of those things but get back to your life in a way that is meaningful for you.

In that way, no you don’t move on from your illness nor do you need to.

Instead, the key thing is integration of your illness or injury experience

It’s how you integrate the experience of the illness or injury, then and now, into you and your life. You want to integrate it in a way that feels healthy to you rather than it negatively dominating your life all of the time.

The woman is standing on the timeline of her life. You see that behind her is birth, schooling, first romantic relationship, university, first job, relationship breakup, redundancy, great job, promotion, marriage, first baby, serious illness, renewed purpose and return to work. The woman's life timeline is pointing towards the future. In front of her says Return to Wellness® with a plan. The woman is saying, "The illness impacts me to this day. Sometimes it's not easy. But now it's a part of my life rather than all of my life." It's about integrating your illness or injury experience into your life.

What’s it like for you?

What does ‘letting go’ and ‘moving on from your illness or injury’ mean to you? How have you integrated the experience of your illness or injury into your life? 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 challenging health issue or caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, you can

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Has this blog made you think? Helped you in some way? Share it so it can do the same for someone else.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

Reference

McGrath, E. (2001) Recovering from Trauma. Available http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/recovering-trauma, (Retrieved 2013, March 20).

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