How to have a life purpose when living with chronic illness

How to have a life purpose when living with chronic illness

Is it possible to have a life purpose when living with chronic illness or a serious injury? Or being a carer? You may think it’s no longer possible. A pipe dream. And that can feel devastating. Lonely too. Especially when you look at people around you getting on with their lives like you used to.

I think it is possible to have a life purpose when living with chronic illness, injury or as a carer. Yes, I’m an optimist. But also a realist. And being a realist means we have to strip things back and do a rethink. Which in turn means challenging our assumptions around illness/injury/caring and having a life purpose. Plus acknowledging the really hard bits and getting support when we need it.

So let’s get started.

A woman has fatigue, looks very tired and is laying on a sofa. She is thinking to herself, "How the hell can I have any purpose in life with this illness?!" The caption reads: How do you have a life purpose when living with chronic illness, injury or caring responsibilities? Read the blog this picture appears in to find out.

When you think of having a life purpose, what do you think of?

Is it doing what others around you are doing? Ticking off life’s typical milestones: building your career, buying a property, having kids, getting married, having a retirement doing what you enjoy, grandchildren, etc.?

Is it about doing a meaningful job whether paid or unpaid?

Or achieving something you’re interested in?

Feeling happy in who you are as a person?

The people you surround yourself with?

Activities that you enjoy doing?

Something else?

When you think of having a life purpose when living with chronic illness, what do you think of? #chronicillness #lifepurpose Click To Tweet

What a life purpose really is

A life purpose is about you and your life. It provides direction for living your life, guidelines even. It gives shape and meaning to your life and makes it a worthwhile one to live.

Your life purpose can be about:

  • Job/ career
  • Hobbies and personal interests
  • The contribution you are making to the world in whatever form that takes – blogging, advocating for a cause via social media channels, writing articles when you can, volunteering, your job/career, etc..
  • Achieving goals you find meaningful
  • Your values – What you stand for and consider important
  • Your strengths and passions
  • What motivates you to get up in the morning
  • Things you enjoy
  • What you find energising
  • Key relationships
  • The people you surround yourself with
  • Your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews (or choosing not to have children)
  • How you treat others
  • Helping others
  • What you find meaningful and worthwhile
  • Who you are as a person – the good and not-so-good
  • A religious/spiritual faith
  • The culture you were raised in (or adopted) and its traditions

A variety of things can make up your life purpose. And some of the items on this list may overlap for you.

How are you defining a life purpose when living with chronic illness?

Before you started to read this blog, how did you define your life purpose? Was it based on one of the items listed above, a few of them or a lot?

Notice any trends in how you thought about your life purpose. For example, was it based on what you see others doing? Or things you once did but can no longer do?

Or have you been thinking that having a life purpose when living with chronic illness is no longer possible? That a life purpose is only possible if you have no health issues?

The purpose of these questions is to highlight any assumptions you may be holding about what constitutes a life purpose and the possibilities of having a life purpose when living with chronic illness.

If you’ve noticed any assumptions you’re holding, ask yourself if they are helpful to you now or is it time to let them go. And ask yourself what do you want for yourself?

It can feel like chronic illness takes your life purpose away from you

You may not be able to do all that you did before its onset – your job, hobbies, or being able to spontaneously move about and do things as you wish. Things like what you enjoy and find energising. Even you as a person may also have changed.

The changes that a chronic illness introduces to your life are a change in boundaries. And the boundaries can feel restrictive because they are so different.

The changes that a #chronicillness introduces to your life are a change in boundaries. And the boundaries can feel restrictive because they are so different. #lifepurpose #wellness Click To Tweet

It’s a case of redesigning your life purpose

You will still have some from that list above and the ability to rebuild others.

This isn’t always a straightforward or easy task. It can take time. It may require you to find new passions for example, develop new strengths and inner qualities even.

Here are 3 recommendations for a life purpose when living with chronic illness

1. Make sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket

This means to have your life purpose be dependent on one thing.

This applies to you even if you don’t have a chronic illness.

Because if your one thing doesn’t work out, like having a particular job/career, then it’s so much easier to feel dejected, low, a sense of failing, etc.

Make sure your life purpose is based on a number of things.

2. A life purpose doesn’t have to be big and grand

You don’t have to be doing a job that is changing the world, requires you to lead lots of people, or is highly paid. Or be a blogger or influencer with loads of followers.

You event don’t have to be ticking off all the life milestones your friends and family may be doing.

Your life purpose can be about what is right for you and the size that is right for you.

A life purpose doesn’t have to be big or grand. Your life purpose can be the size that is right for you. #chronicillness #lifepurpose Click To Tweet

Like keeping the people important to you close and maintaining those relationships. A hobby you can do when you’re well enough. Getting out in nature when you can. Savouring small moments that make you smile. Discovering the depth of empathy you have and celebrating that.

3. Be mindful of how you look at and think about your life when living with chronic illness

Because that is how you’re defining your life.

If you are consistently defining your life as one that isn’t what it was or should be, it is a life focused on wanting the past but knowing one can’t have it, and upset that the future one expected won’t be. It is also focused on loss and deficit. It can be so emotionally draining.

If you are doing this, please show lots of compassion to yourself. Because this can be a symptom of grief for what you no longer have. Having various forms of support whilst you’re in this phase can help you deal with the grief, move through and beyond it.

Also, if you assume that having a life purpose when living with chronic illness isn’t possible, you can end up unknowingly living to a societal assumption that being chronically ill means that you cannot have a life worth living. That the two are mutually exclusive.

An original quote by Return to Wellness® reads: If you assume that having a purpose in life when living with chronic illness isn't possible, you can end up unknowingly living to a societal assumption that being chronically ill means that you cannot have a life worth living. The two aren't mutually exclusive." This is important to consider when you want to have a life purpose when living with chronic illness, injury or caring responsibilities.

You are still the architect of your life purpose when living with chronic illness

At times it may not feel like it. There are some things in our life, particularly regarding our health, we can’t always directly and fully control. But you are still your own architect.

Even if you don’t feel ready just yet to purposefully start redesigning your life purpose, you can gently ask yourself once in a while, ‘When I am ready, what kind of life and life purpose do I want whilst living with this chronic illness?’

And if you are ready to start redesigning your life purpose, what kind of life do you want? What do you want your life to stand for? And what action can you take to start making it happen?

Your life purpose will evolve

As you live, have new experiences, grow and change, your life purpose will change. That’s ok. And natural.

And it’s ok not to define a life purpose when living with chronic illness

Maybe you like to let things unfold and go with the flow. That’s cool too.

It’s your life. So you determine it.

Picture of an original quote by Return To Wellness saying: You are the CEO of you. So you're in charge. This is very much the case when you want to manage your health issue successfully including renewing your life purpose when living with chronic illness

What’s it like for you?

What do you think about having a life purpose when living with chronic illness? Is it possible? Is it worth it? And do you have one? 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 are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here,

AND

Pass it forward

Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

When you get left behind in life due to your illness

When you get left behind in life due to your illness

It’s not uncommon to feel you get left behind in life due to your illness or injury or caring responsibilities. It can happen in variety of ways.

It may be that you’re still at an earlier level in your career as compared to peers. That can happen when you have to devote time to hospital appointments, treatments, surgeries, recuperation or caring responsibilities.

Between getting ill/injured or caring and getting back to life, you can feel out of touch with your friends. They have continued with life whilst it feels you’ve had to step out of it. When you step back in, it’s like you’re on a different path. You have a whole bunch of other stuff to contend with that they don’t. And they may come across as oblivious as to what you’ve had to deal with.

Or you can’t do as much due to fatigue, pain, mobility issues, caring responsibilities or something else. So you have to cancel plans, or leave engagements early, or you can take part in an activity but not in the way the majority can.

Want to move beyond feeling like you’ve been left behind in your life due to your illness, injury or caring responsibilities?

It’s not fun to feel like that

In fact, it can suck.

So what do you do when you find yourself in a situation like this?

The picture is of three women walking along and having fun chatting. A woman is walking behind them struggling to keep up. Her hip is hurting. She is thinking: "I just can't keep up. And they look like they are having fun." The caption reads: When you get behind in your life due to your illness, injury or caring responsibilities." The point is that you can feel left behind in life due to your illness, injury or caring role.

Here are the five things you can do when you get left behind in life due to your illness, injury or a caring role

There are 5 things you can do to move beyond feeling like you get left behind in your life due to your #illness #injury or #caring responsibilities. Read them here Click To Tweet

1. Recognise what’s going on for a start.

There’s are several comparisons that can often happen.

The obvious comparison is comparing yourself to your peers, to what they can do and you cannot.

The second comparison is comparing the you now and your current capabilities to your previous self and his/her capabilities. But is it that fair comparison? It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Yet I totally appreciate how that happens. Because you used to be able to do what your peers are doing. AND you enjoyed that activity and all it represents, i.e. a good time, sense of belonging, the contribution you made, etc.

The can be a third comparison of your life now as compared to what it should have been.

With any of these comparisons you can get that feeling of getting left behind in life due to your illness or injury. All these comparisons can be a lot for you to hold. They can be draining. So notice this is happening, be gentle with yourself and move on to step 2.

2. Acknowledge how you feel about it.

You may feel left out, left behind, sad and upset, alone, angry, frustrated or something else. It’s important to acknowledge that to yourself. It’s a way to validate your feelings and experience which is a psychologically healthy thing to do.

3. Mourn for what you’re not getting to experience

What you’re experiencing in these moments is a sense of loss. Whether that relates to not being able to take part in a favourite activity, make a contribution in a way you value, feel a sense of belonging with a friendship group, or something else.

Mourning what you have lost is also a psychological healthy thing to do. But it may not be easy. The feelings it brings up can feel unpleasant and negative. And you might worry they will never go away. They do pass. But for that to happen, you have to let yourself feel them.

An original quote by Return To Wellness® states: "Motion is in the word 'emotion' for a reason. Emotions are meant to move through you. But you have to let them do that so you don't get stuck in them."

4. Create a life so you get to experience what you value

This is about adapting how you approach activities you enjoy so you can take part in a way that you’re happy with. Or finding new activities. And by activities, I mean the job you do for a living, volunteering opportunities, hobbies, interests, and social engagements for example. It may also include developing new friendships.

To create a life you value and find worthwhile living requires you to do that with intention.  By that I mean to have a good think about what you want for yourself and your life, what you desire, developing a plan to achieve that, and then take action.

5. Recognise that you are on a different journey which is personal to you

You may have moments where you slip back into making comparisons that leave you feeling upset and frustrated. Given we humans are social beings, it is a human thing to do.

It’s about reminding yourself that this is about you focusing on you, your needs, your goals, what you’re learning and your journey. Your peers are on their journey. You are on your journey. And it’s about how you can make your journey one that you feel is worthwhile to be on.

What’s it like for you when you get left behind in life due to your illness or injury or caring responsibilities?

What triggers it? How do you feel? And how have you coped? 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

AND

Pass it forward

Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

Why you don’t need to move on from your illness

Why you don’t need to move on from your illness

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.… Click To Tweet

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. Click To Tweet

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

AND

Pass it forward

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).

Three things that will make your new years resolutions successful

Three things that will make your new years resolutions successful

You can make your new years resolutions successful by doing three easy things. If you set resolutions now or at another time of the year, chances are you want to succeed at achieving them. Yet sometimes things get in the way which means you don’t, despite well-meaning efforts you made. This happens a lot. It has happened to me.

I want to share these three things as it’s not any kind of secret, but I notice a lot of people often don’t follow them. They’re important as it’s about laying the foundation for a resolution which will help you get what you want for yourself and your life this year.

Note: For some people the word ‘resolution’ really grates. Use the word that works for you. Goal. Objective. Intention. Possibility. Something else. I’m going to use the word resolution. Also, some people don’t set resolutions at New Year’s. That’s fine. What I write here applies at any time of the year.

Here are the three easy things to do to make your new year’s resolutions successful #change #wellness #newyearsresolution Click To Tweet

The first thing to do to make your new years resolutions successful

Focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want

When we want to do, think or feel something different, we often phrase it as

I don’t want…

There is a focus on what we don’t want or what we want to lose. Understandable. It’s a good starting point.

You need to balance that by also focusing on what you want instead.

Because when you take something away – i.e. what you don’t want to be doing – putting something in its place will help you know what to focus on.

If you don’t do this, you can end up focusing your energies on what you no longer want rather than moving towards what you do want. And this is when people tend to give up.

A woman is sitting reading on a yellow sofa and wondering, 'I know what I don't want, but what do I want? I want to be more focused so my intentions needs to be specific.' The caption reads - What do you want for yourself this year? The point is that if we know what we want and we create specific actions to achieve that, then those actions help to make your new years resolutions successful

Here’s an example

Not be so critical of myself.

That’s a very common new year resolution. The danger is leaving it like that. You risk just saying, ‘Don’t be so critical of yourself!’ when you notice yourself being self-critical. You end up criticising yourself for being self-critical. Not helpful.

Think about what you want to be doing instead and include specific behaviours

To make your new years resolutions successful you can reword them to include specific behaviours of what you will be doing differently. For example:

When I notice myself being self-critical, I will tell myself, ‘Oh hey, there I go again.’ I will also smile as a way of showing myself self-compassion.

The second thing to do to make your new years resolutions successful

Figure out how you will incorporate what you want to do into your daily routine

This is important. So many people don’t think about this up front. They may have the resolution to ‘get fit’, they get a gym membership, go to the gym after work, do this for a few weeks in January, then stop because at the end of the work day they are so tired and just want to veg out in front of the tv. Or they have kids to put to bed.

If you give a bit of thought as to what action you can take and when during your day, it can help you figure out if your resolution is realistic. Or do you need to adapt it in some way so it is more achievable for you.

For example, I learned that I either have to live close to a gym, less than a mile walk, or I have to have a mini gym in my house. As I don’t live close to a gym, I opted for the mini gym in the house.

Picture of exercise equipment including a yoga mat, resistance bands, weights, a stepper, foam roller and Fit with Frank online bootcamp videos. Exercise and physiotherapy can help you move on from the depression about your illness or injury.

It is also a trial and error process. I learned I have to work out first thing in the morning after waking up and before any coffee or breakfast. The workout gets the highest priority. If I do that, the workout gets done.

Be open to trial and error

If it doesn’t work out the first time, don’t give up. Just find another way. You will eventually land on a way that works for you.

Remember, when you were a baby, you didn’t walk perfectly or eat well with a spoon the first time you attempted it. It probably too you several weeks to months to learn.

This is an original quote by Return To Wellness: "When you start to make a change, be open to learning and that it will be a trial and error process. Remember, you didn't eat with a spoon or walk perfectly the first time you attempted it as a baby." The point of this is to be gentle with yourself and to watch any tendencies towards holding yourself to your pre-illness or injury high standards or to be perfect. This will help you make your new years resolutions successful

The third thing to do to make your new years resolutions successful

Make your resolution specific

The other thing we often don’t do is make the goal specific. Let’s go back to the examples we used previously.

Not be so critical of myself.

versus

When I notice myself being self-critical, I will tell myself, ‘Oh hey, there I go again.’ I will also smile as a way of showing myself self-compassion.

The first one feels kind of big. When something feels big, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Too big to start making a change.

But when you break the resolution down into smaller actions, it can feel so much more do-able and manageable. That’s a key ingredient to make your new years resolutions successful.

The second resolution above is a good example of that. It outlines specific things the person will do so she is no longer so critical of herself.

Keep your actions small

Specific actions are naturally smaller actions and these help you make your new years resolutions successful.

I was working with carers not long ago and a common goal they often have is to get fit. When we broke that goal down, taking more exercise became an important component. But the carers were worried whether they would actually take the time to exercise. So I said do it for 5 minutes at the start. That’s all.

When I re-introduced exercise back into my life in 2018, the first routine I did was 6 minutes long. That’s it. Since then, I’ve slowly built up the amount of time I exercise.  I dropped a dress size in the past year, my body shape has changed, and my cardio function has improved.

These are the benefits of keeping your resolutions small

Specific actions are naturally smaller actions and these help you make your new years resolutions successful.

A small (tiny even) action enables you to get started. Getting started is important.

It’s easier to take smaller action as it may not take as much time. So you’re more likely to keep taking the action(s) which makes it easier to build habits. Habits are good for lasting change.

Smaller actions allow you to work to a pace you are capable of and comfortable with given everything else going on in your life. It may mean change happens more slowly, but chances are much greater it will be long lasting change.

There are important benefits to keeping your #NewYearsResolutions small. Read about them here #change #wellness Click To Tweet

There is another reason why specific and small actions are important

When you or a loved one is dealing with a challenging health issue, you are dealing with some big changes. And all you want is to get your life back and feel like yourself again.

It can feel overwhelming. My clients have said this to me. I have personally experienced this.

Specific and small actions help you to not pile expectations onto yourself. But to take things at a gentler pace.

Small is good, achievable and gentle.

The caption of this picture reads: Small and specific actions help you to be gentle with yourself. A woman is standing and looking contended at a table. On the table are three actions. Go to yoga class once a week. Walk at lunch three times a week. Go out with a friend once a week. The woman is thinking, "Having just a few small actions this year feels much more possible to do." Small and specific actions will make your new years resolutions successful

What’s it like for you?

What do you think will help you to make your new years resolutions successful? What has worked in the past for you? 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 are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

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

How to deal with your life now versus how it should be

How to deal with your life now versus how it should be

Figuring out how to deal with your life now versus how it should be can be hard. Frustrating. Sad. Something has happened to you and your life that wasn’t in the plan. And it means that the life you had planned for yourself – your life how it should be – may no longer be possible.

Maybe what has happened was a challenging health issue has come into your or a loved one’s life. Your life or theirs may be changed forever as a result. Or maybe it’s a relationship betrayal or breakdown, redundancy, bankruptcy, move to a new home/city/country, or even the death of someone close to you. Or your life just hasn’t panned out in the way you had hoped for any number of reasons.

So how do you deal with your life now versus how it should be?

You expected your life to be a certain way. But now all that has changed due to a challenging #health issue. Read what you can do to deal with your life now versus how it should be #wellness #change Click To Tweet

The clue on how to deal with your life now versus how it should be is in that title

Look at the words

‘your life now versus how it should be’

There are two things happening in those words. I’m going to outline what they are and what you can do to reconcile the differences to help you deal with your life now versus how it should be.

The picture shows a woman trying to figure out how to deal with her life now versus how she thinks it should be. She is saying, 'I want to find the clues.' The caption reads: The clue on how to deal with your life now versus how it should be is in that sentence. Written in one box is 'my life now'. In another box, is written 'how it should be'. Should is underlined. Between the two boxes 'versus' is written. This is underlined too. Can you figure out the clues?

First, what is the ‘versus’ like for you?

When at a sporting event or playing a game, we use the word ‘versus’ to indicate two teams playing ‘against’ each other. The versus has connotations of winning and losing. One team will win the other will lose.

We then take that versus and use it on other areas of our lives. A union versus the government. You versus your boss. Boys versus girls.

In relation to how to deal with your life now versus how it should be, what is the energy in the versus for you?

Does the ‘versus’ feel like a fight? One that you aren’t winning? Are you in this perpetual state of losing? Or something else?

Second, notice the use of ‘should’

The use of the word ‘should’ is ‘used to show what is right, appropriate, etc.’. And it can be ‘used to say that something that was expected has not happened’.

Sometimes, the use of the word ‘should’ can fuse these two – what was expected to happen was the right thing to happen.

But there can be difficulty when the ‘should’ becomes a rule

When a person holds on tightly to what they consider the right and appropriate thing to do or be, that is when ‘should’ becomes more like a rule. The harder the person holds on to that ‘should’, the more fixed it becomes as a rule.

We often inherent such rules from the primary caregivers in our families of origin. Your mother, father, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, even teachers and friends’ parents. When we inherited them, they were useful at that time.

So how do you reconcile the differences between your life now and how it should be?

Read here to learn how to reconcile the differences between your life now versus how it should be #health #change #wellness Click To Tweet

Check if your ‘shoulds’ are outdated strategies

Because sometimes the should you learned in childhood was appropriate for that stage of your life but isn’t now. But you may learned the should more recently from people around you or even social media. Do this by asking yourself:

  • If someone from my past would have said this, who would that be?
  • If I learned this should more recently, from who or where did I learn it?
  • Is it helpful for me and my life to continue operating to this should?

If you’ve identified someone and you’ve realised it’s no longer helpful to carry around this should, then you can give that should back to them (on an energetic level).

Also, whenever you notice yourself using the word ‘should’ to show what is right, appropriate and correct, replace it with the word ‘could’. Notice what that is like for you.

The woman is looking at two boxes one which has 'my life now' written in it and the other 'how it could be'. The word could is underlined. Between them is written the word and and it is underlined. The caption reads: Notice how the use of 'could' rather than 'should' creates possibility and the potential for movement. The woman is saying, 'That feels so much better!'

Check the kind of energy you are putting into the ‘versus’

Is it the kind of energy where you feel like you are fighting to get to your life as it ‘should’ be but you’re not getting anywhere?

What if you were to let go of that fight and just be with how your life is now?

I appreciate that this can be a big ask because some situations are very tough to be in. As a start, just put the fight to one side for a bit and notice what that is like for you. You can return to it if you choose to.

So why did I suggest putting the fight to one side?

Check if you’re in the grip of ‘comparsion-itis’

Comparison is a common strategy people use to deal with their life now versus how it should be.

If you are constantly comparing your life as it is now versus how it should be, you are not happy with your life now and you are happy with the vision and hopes of how your life should be, yeah, that is gonna be hard. It can feel very negative.

Sometimes your life how it should be is your pre-illness/injury life and you are striving to get back to that. Reading this blog will also help.

That kind of constant comparison is energy draining. Your life now will never be good enough. And do you want to live your life like that?

I reckon you are probably shaking your head no.

So change the nature of the comparison you’re making as you deal with your life now versus how it should be

‘Should’ can be used to refer to a possible event or situation, so something in the future.

Your life ‘as it should be’ could be something in the future. It may be possible to achieve, it may not. Or maybe something in the middle of those two is achievable.

If the life you have dreamt for yourself is truly not possible, then mourn that loss

It’s a very real loss. Although our western society doesn’t always embrace or even allow mourning, it is a legitimate and healthy thing to do. And you can mourn without unpacking and living in it forever and ever. When you mourn you are honouring someone or something you valued. That is ok to do. It also helps to put an end to unhealthy comparison.

Reflect on the possibility of creating a life that is somewhere between, even beyond, the life you have now and the life you had hoped for

Depending on what you had hoped for in your life, how can you create it or aspects of it now in the life you do have? It may take a different form. It may take more effort on your part to make happen. It may take a while to make happen. But what are the possibilities? And what actions can you start taking to make them happen? However small those actions may be.

This is about purposefully creating the life you want given everything that you have dealt with and may have to deal with.

These possibilities can be flexible and adaptable goals. I use the words flexible and adaptable to highlight that you may need to be open to changing how you reach the goal, aspects of the goal or even the goal itself. This can help lessen a ‘rule fixed should’ taking hold.

Reading this related blog on finding the new you after a difficult experience like the onset of a challenging health issue or something else, will also help.

If it’s not yet possible to create the life you want, then notice the good in your life now and what makes you smile

A woman is sitting down looking at a continuum above her and smiling. She's in a good place. At one end of the continuum is 'your life now'. Above it reads 'notice the good here'. At the other end of the continuum is 'how your life should be' and the word should is in quotes. Above it is written, mourn what you've lost and valued. Between those two points of the continuum is highlighted the middle and there's the questions: What are the possibilities here? How could you life be? Below near the woman who is sitting down, there's a rubbish bin and in it is 'comparison-itis'. The emphasis here is how you reconcile the differences between your life now and how it 'should' be by looking at all the possibilities between the two.

That may sound really cliched, but it has value because it’s true.

Maybe you are dealing with a lot of uncertainty so until some of that lessens you can’t say what you want your life to be like or you know but don’t have the energy to create it just yet. For example, when you’re in the acute phase of a challenging health issue and having treatment, or in a flare, or even for situations such as divorce, bankruptcy, redundancy, something else.

So take a deep breath.

Let go of the struggle.

Notice the small, even tiny things that make you smile and remind you of the good in the world.

Someone who smiles at you on the street. A funny meme on social media. The bird outside your house. The sun shining. A hug a loved one gives you. A cup of tea someone makes for you or you make for them. A news story about something someone did that was kind.

Just keep noticing those small things day-in and day-out, day after day. That helps you to keep some good in your life which helps to keep a sense of balance. It also makes sure you don’t forget how to notice the good things, which is so important.

Finally, if comparison-it is ever starts to take hold…

Remind yourself that you only need to compare you and your life to the you and your life of yesterday.

An original inspirational quote by Return to Wellness reads: You only need to compare you and your life to the you and your life of yesterday."

What’s it like for you?

What resonated with you in this blog? In learning how to deal with your life now versus how it should be, what would help you? Or has helped? 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 are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

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 2019

My top 10 life lessons learned from illness

My top 10 life lessons learned from illness

Last week I wrote about how to make sense of the life lessons learned from illness or injury. And I continue on that theme by writing about what those life lessons actually are.

The life lessons will of course differ from person to person as we are all different, have different illnesses or injuries and life circumstances. For a start I am focusing on the life lessons learned from illness I have experience with. 

To keep this post within a reasonable word count, because this could end up being a long post, I am focusing on 11 life lessons (it was 10 originally). But having a ‘top 11’ is in no way meant to turn this into some sort of cliché and devalue the topic. This is a big topic, and a very important one given the lessons learned often have a lifelong impact.

And when I talk about an illness or injury, it could be your own, a loved one’s, a relative, friend or colleague.

You often get life lessons in one fell swoop rather than over a lifetime

As I said last week, for most people, this is the kind of stuff you learn as you live your life. So when you get to age 50, 60, 70, 80 etc., you have this wisdom and a clearer sense of who you are. You have learned the life lessons gradually over time as you progressed through life’s various stages and milestones. As such, they were easier to digest.

You’ve been given a lot to consider all at once. And you didn’t even ask for it.

Picture of a man sitting at a table with a plate in front of him piled high with life lessons learned from illness or injury. He is saying, 'I didn't order this.' A serious illness can give you so much so quickly, such as life lessons, but you didn't ask for any of that.


What you end up having to consider

What is this illness or injury? – How do you manage it? Where do you get information? Where are the best doctors? Does your GP know anything about your illness/injury? What will recovery be like? Will you go back to the way you were pre-illness/injury? Will you die?

What you believe about yourself – Do you really have as much control over your body and life as you thought? How has the illness or injury impacted how you look after yourself and others (food, diet, exercise, mental health, self-care)? What can you still do? Or no longer do?

What you believe about other people. – The people whom you expected to be there to help you but weren’t. The people who were there for you.

The nature of the relationships you have with people. – How has the illness or injury impacted them? What roles are different? Can you still engage in all aspects of the spouse/partner role? Are your children having to take on more responsibility earlier than planned/desired? Which friends are no longer around?

And more…

What you consider important – How has the illness or injury impacted your attitude and approach to your job or career, to making money, your hobbies, exercise, creative pursuits, etc.?

How will you survive? – Can you still work? What if you are the breadwinner?

Your belief in God or another a higher being or your spirituality. – Are you being sent these trials to see how you cope? Why you? Why not you?

And still more

This is all big stuff. Existentialist type questions. It is no wonder it can feel like the metaphorical ground you have walked on your whole life feels like it is crumbling away.

A picture of a woman walking on ground that is cracking and developing holes. She is thinking, "The ground I am walking on isn[t firm anymore!" There are questions surrounding her like, "How do I manage it all? Who am I now? Can I work? My relationships are changing. Why me? Why not me?" When you are dealing with life lessons learned from illness, the metaphorical ground you are walking on may no longer feel firm.
When dealing with the life lessons learned from illness, the ground you are walking on may no longer feel firm.

When I reflected on all that and more, this is what I came up with. As you read this, note which life lessons resonate with you or not, and which ones are relevant for you but not here.

My top 10 11 life lessons learned from illness

1. You are responsible for your maintaining physical and mental health


When I apply this to myself, I figure it is my body I live in it every day, so it is up to me to maintain my physical and mental health. No one is going to do this for me. Not the doctors, my family or friends. Of course, they influence it. They may help me. But it is up to me to take primary responsibility for managing my physical and mental health.

Regarding managing the impact of my health issues, the doctors and other professionals can give me advice and support based on their expertise. It is up to me to do my research on my health issues, track my symptoms, find doctors and healthcare professionals whom I trust, prepare for appointments, ask my questions, implement advice, take my medication, do my physiotherapy, ask for help when I need it, etc.

It’s my body. My body helps me to live the life I want. So it’s my responsibility.

2. Just be yourself

As Joyce Williams (@JoyceWilliams_ on Twitter) wrote for a website, the ‘freedom to be you’ and not be ‘weighed down by others’ expectations of you anymore. (Joyce Williams writes about life at 80+ and I recommend you follow her blog. She’s very good.)

After your own or a loved one’s serious illness or injury, you’ve looked at your mortality. You know how precious life is. And you got through that experience. So the worry of what others think seems trivial in comparison. If they don’t care for what you do, wear, say, etc., screw it.

Life is short. Live it. Be yourself.

Picture of the quote, "Self-love is not selfish. You cannot truly love another until you know how to love yourself." Source is unknown. This is important life lesson from illness. Self-love helps you to just be yourself.

3. Do what is meaningful to you and gives you joy

See above. Life is short. Live it.

4. Do what you really want to do but are scared to

Again, life is short. Go out and live it.

I don’t want to be on my death bed regretting things I did not do but wanted to. So I ask myself this question, ‘Is not doing this activity something I would regret on my deathbed?’

Also, I know how my body has changed due to just one episode of Transverse Myelitis. The doctors said it was most likely a one-off attack but I know people they have said that to who have had another. So if I had another episode of TM and lost more functionality, I’d be upset with myself for not taking chances I am capable of doing now. This has been one of the top life lessons learned from illness for me.

5. When trying something new, not doing it well is not failure. It takes practice for something to become a habit. And we will get it wrong. There’s learning in that.

Remember, we weren’t born knowing how to walk. We started crawling and fell flat on our faces. We started walking and fell down a lot. And people clapped for us! Happily clapped for us! They clapped for the fact that we were having a go, that we were striving towards something. We intuitively adjusted and eventually we learned to walk. Then run, then skip and hop.

6. Better developed perspective

Again, as Joyce Williams wrote, you have ‘a stronger sense of perspective’ due to your life experiences. Provided of course you have reflected on what you’ve learned from them and how they have shaped you as a person.

You have a much greater sense of what is important to you, what isn’t, when to worry and get upset and when to let things go.

7. Self-compassion isn’t being indulgent. It’s necessary. Every day.

This is a life skill. When you are dealing with the impact of a health trauma, your compassion for yourself will carry you through the difficulties. It is a way of telling yourself that you are worth it, that you are deserving of compassion and kindness, that it is ok to slow down and not produce or achieve as much because your body has changed. It’s ok to adjust your expectations of yourself and of others.

Self-compassion enhances your ability to adapt and be flexible which is often necessary to have a quality of life when living with the impact of a serious illness, chronic illness or injury.

Self-compassion enhances your ability to adapt and be flexible which is often necessary to have a quality of life when living with the impact of a #seriousillness #chronicillness or #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

8. Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness

It’s you recognising what you are good at and what you aren’t as good at and/or don’t know how to do. By getting help, you can get to where you want to be that little bit faster.

We are all inter-dependent anyway. We all need each other.

9. Graciously accepting compliments and positive feedback is not self-indulgent. Nor is letting yourself be happy with them. It’s necessary.

It feeds your self-worth. So watch for when you discount yourself and your abilities when someone gives you a compliment or positive feedback. That is you playing small and that doesn’t help you or anyone around you.

Bathe in the compliments and positive feedback you receive. Spend time with them and let them infuse your heart and soul.

Graciously accepting compliments and positive feedback is not self-indulgent. Nor is letting yourself be happy with them. It’s necessary. It helps to restore your self-esteem and sense of self-worth after a #health #trauma Click To Tweet

10. You are stronger than you think you are

You may not have had a choice in that, you had to be strong. But you did it. You got through that health trauma and possibly other traumas in your life.

You are dealing well enough with learning to live in a changed body or helping a loved one learn to live in their changed body. You probably returned to work or found new work. You may have redefined what ‘work’ means for you. You may have found an emotional balance again or are working towards that.

Whatever you have done, you got this far.

I often ask myself and others the question, ‘What enabled you to get this far?’

It’s a valuable reminder of your strengths and skills, of your resilience, of the people who matter most to you.

A picture of an original quote by Return to Wellness: "You've made it this far. What is it about you that has enabled you to do that? This is an important question to consider when thinking about the life lessons learned from illness or injury.

11. Be proud of the life lessons learned from illness or injury and how far you’ve come

You have every right to be proud of yourself for getting back to work after a serious illness or injury.

You have every right to be proud of yourself for reinventing yourself after your organ transplant.

You have every right to be proud of yourself for finding an emotional balance again after the health trauma you experienced.

You have every right to be proud of yourself for getting through gruelling cancer treatment and beyond.

You have every right to be proud of being the best carer you could for someone until the day they died.

You have every right for being proud of being a good enough parent to a child with a disability.

You get the idea.

It’s ok to be proud of yourself in whichever way suits you. Please don’t let people take that away from you.

But why do you have this right to be proud of yourself? Isn’t that kind of looked down upon in some cultures? (Like in the UK.)

When you are proud of yourself, it’s a recognition of your skills, strengths and passions. It’s a way of affirming yourself for what you got through. That feeds your self-worth. And you need your self-worth to get you through the rest of your life.

A picture of a woman hugging her heart and in her heart is written 'self-worth'. She is thinking, "That was an awful ordeal. Really tough. And I made it this far. I learned so much. Well done to me!" The caption reads: It's important to appreciation what it is about you that has enabled you to deal with your health issue. Self-appreciation feeds your self-worth. The life lessons learned from illness or injury contribute to this.

What’s it like for you?

What life lessons learned from illness or injury would be on your list? How do they differ from above? 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 figure out what you are learning from a serious health issue and how to apply that in your life, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

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 2019

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