A diagnosis of a chronic condition can be traumatic. No, not one like high cholesterol that requires swallowing a statin and then diving back into the steak tips. But a big one. In my case, fibromyalgia: brain function and chemical changes lead to essentially a permanent fight-or-flight response that often results in ongoing pain, digestive issues, cognitive impairments, weaker immunity, poor sleeping, low energy, and the list goes on. But whether it’s this or others that could range from multiple sclerosis to bipolar disorder, from ankylosing spondylitis to alcoholism, from epilepsy to PTSD, there is one very stark reality that accompanies the acceptance of that diagnosis: the need to deconstruct your life in order to reassemble it in a way that addresses your new limitations.
|Drawing my blood turned out to be the easy part.|
The harder part is accepting that you can’t live in the way you’re accustomed. For me, I’d already spent years working to be the healthiest and best me that I could be. I’d established a lifestyle and life that I loved. I was happy, and bouncing between living in the moment and dreaming of my next immersive adventure. But now that’s all gone. The only thing I know at the moment is that I can’t really live that way anymore; living in the moment is currently a fantasy. I need to be cognizant of my condition – all the time: I need to carefully start the day off. I need to religiously take my prescription and supplements. I need to eat militantly. I need to exercise. But I need to not exercise certain ways. I’m stressed by my need to avoid stress whenever possible. After an exhausting day, I then need to sleep delicately to try to make it through the night. The list goes on and on, and when I deviate I pay the price.
But, in addition to all of those efforts, I also need to now examine my prior lifestyle and find all the ways I’d now exacerbate my condition. I need to recognize how certain fulfilling activities will cause flare-ups so that I can now avoid them. I need to identify how certain tendencies got me this far in life but now become liabilities. I need to assess my personality, behaviors, and attitudes and hone in on the pieces that aren’t unhealthy under other circumstances yet now create risks for me. I need to analyze my relationships and determine in partnership with those friends and family how I need to modify them in order for them to remain mutually nurturing and fulfilling.
|As I've learned from time on the trail, |
it helps to break up arduous efforts into smaller pieces.
But to not face up to the task at hand is a worse fate. To merely wallow onward substitutes a ore unappealing situation than grinding out this arduous self-appraisal. It saves the mental discomfort and avoids trials and errors. But instead, it does nothing to move me forward. In fact, it adds to the physical pain and mental stress by refusing to cultivate my ability to self-manage and maximize whatever potential I have.
|I'm not sure about finding a great reward at the end of this, |
but I'll tryto stay positive.
One step at a time,
Jay Bell, AKA Rock Hopper