Look, being sick? All the time? It sucks.
You know that. I know that.
So how do we combat the darkness of doom and despair?
Well, I have many coping mechanisms which I’ll get into in future posts.
Spoiler alert: They involve a lot of fluffy animals.
But my main coping skill?
Yeah, there are a lot of sucky things in my life right now. I could list them, but it would take me a while and I’d feel shitty afterwards.
I choose not to focus on them. It’s bad enough I have to live them, why would I spend any extra energy dwelling on them?
John Green says that “pain demands to be felt,” and I agree to a certain extent. But there are plenty of other emotions that should command just as much of my time. Much more pleasant ones.
The other day a bunch of my friends got together for lunch. I couldn’t drive myself there because my symptoms and medications don’t allow me to drive myself these days.
But, without any asking or prompting, I had three separate offers from friends who asked if I needed a ride. Not to mention my parents were ready to drive me before any of those offers were presented.
That’s pretty cool. I felt really lucky to have that.
I have to cancel plans with friends a lot, due to unpredictable symptoms. But I’ve never had a “sorry I have to cancel evil tummy” text responded with anything but a variant of “no worries, feel better.” That means I’ve got impressively understanding and supportive friends. That rocks.
I’m stuck in bed a lot. I had to drop out of school and abandon any pre-conceived notions about how my life would be. I spend way more time in doctor’s offices than I ever cared to.
But my parents are rock stars who bend over backwards to support me in every way possible. I have access to fantastic health care, literally the most caring doctor on the planet, and with this interconnected age of the internet, I could feasibly have a self-sustaining career even if I’m still stuck in bed in ten years (although I hope to God I’m not).
I have a lot in my life to be sad and frustrated about, but I also have a lot to be thankful for. And when I focus on the things I’m grateful for, then I feel like a lucky person. It’s hard to feel sad and lucky at the same time.
Of course, the things I’m grateful for may not be the things you’re grateful for. You might not be as lucky in your support system as I am in mine. But you can be grateful for any number of things. It could even be something as simple as a good TV show, (I’m personally thanking my stars that Friends is finally going to be on Netflix next year) or a hobby that brings you joy and comfort, or even a lustrous autumn day of crisp, falling leaves.
I’m not saying you should be grateful for what you have. You’ve got a rotten lot right now and you’re allowed to feel however you feel. But you can feel grateful. You have that option, that ability, that liberty. Gratitude isn’t like pain; it doesn’t demand to be felt. It asks politely and waits.
And it’s not like we can’t ever feel sorry for ourselves. We can’t repress all negative emotion. Tumors happen that way.
We get overwhelmed, and the tears just gotta flow sometimes. But when we actively focus on the things we are genuinely lucky to have, then our burden feels a hell of a lot lighter.
And don’t we all deserve to give ourselves that break?
About the Author:
Leah is a 24 years old suburb-of-Philly native. She has gastroparesis, a feeding tube, and a battery operated stomach. She is the proprietor of this site, as well as the sassy Disney blog The Magical World Of, and a contributor to the new podcast Media Matters.