How could something so seemingly awful as suffering through chronic illness ever be considered a gift? With 60% of Americans living with chronic illness and over 40% living with 2 or more chronic illnesses*, I doubt you’ve ever heard anyone say “Woo! I found out I have a 2nd chronic disease today!”
I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but for me (and many of my Optimal Health Blueprint clients, the journey of chronic illness looks something like this:
- There’s the long phase of unexplained and worsening symptoms. What was once manageable with the occasional over-the-counter remedies or even a good night’s sleep, begins to escalate into unrelenting discomfort until you are white-knuckling your way through your life.
- The terrifying phase of seeing multiple doctors who either tell you: There’s nothing wrong with you (when you know something’s not right), or offer medications that may mitigate some of the discomforts but mostly come with unintended consequences. Not to mention doing nothing to address the underlying cause and continued dysfunction that brought you to this misery in the place.
- The seemingly never-ending phase of trying one medical intervention after another. Then the magic beans from the internet. Running the gambit of complementary and alternative care. Giving up on everything and then starting the whole cycle again. All the while draining any financial reserves, missing out on opportunities and adventures, and feeling increasingly disconnected from friends and loved ones because you are consumed by pain, discomfort, and frustration.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets to this next phase
This is the phase where all the desperation, anger, and resentment get funneled into resolve.
This came with the realization that no one was going to want or need a solution to my problems more than me. So it was up to me to take whatever little energy and resources I had left over and figure out why these things were happening to me and what could be done to resolve it.
This was a long hard road, but I got there. And I created The Optimal Health Blueprint because I wanted to provide others with the same relief and opportunity at a fraction of the expense and heartache.
Here is where the gift comes in…
Suffering from chronic illness, especially early in life can be absolutely devastating. But if you are able to get to that place where you can find relief, strike a balance and know what to do to find your way back when (not if) you get off track, there’s so much to be grateful for.
First, you have a whole new threshold for what makes a great day…
- You were able to sleep… Amazing!
- You woke up without debilitating pain… What’s better than this?
- You were able to go to the bathroom… Nothing can stop you now!
- You were able to exercise (you don’t need to impress anybody, you got your heart rate up and used some muscles)… Endorphins… Am I right?!?
- You ate a good meal… And nothing happened! No nausea, bloating, cramping, or bathroom emergencies. Just the good old breakdown and adsorption of nutrients that fuel the miracle of a meat sack that is your body!
- You got a couple of hours of focused work in… You’re brain used to feel like a pile of mud, but now you’re like a super hero!
- You were able to connect with another human being… Without the background soundtrack in your head wondering if you would ever feel okay again, work enough to support yourself, or just enjoy your life.
Second, (as if that weren’t enough) you have a new definition of what’s possible…
You realize that, if you are capable of all the above (or even just most, on most days), there’s really nothing you can’t do.
This is all you need to figure out what makes you happy, set a goal, make a plan to get there, and start plugging away.
Nothing really seems insurmountable after an experience like this. Sure, you will still find some people annoying or aggravating. Circumstances will still make you sad. Your self-esteem may occasionally take a dip.
But you realize (usually after a nap), you have your health (or at least you know how to get back to it) and anything is possible.
Third, you got an early warning sign!
One of the things about getting a chronic illness, even when you’ve figured out how to find balance, is, you can’t ever really push yourself to the limit that got you sick in the first place.
Making less-than-optimal choices will generally bring symptoms (the alarm bells) back faster than they originally came on when you first got sick.
Maybe you think this sounds like a bad thing, but trust me, my friends, this is a win.
I can’t do the things that lead to most people ending up in an early grave.
- I can’t eat a crappy diet
- I can’t go without sleep
- My body starts to hurt and my brain doesn’t work if I don’t exercise
- I can’t sustain an unhealthy workload
- I can’t ignore persistent symptoms
- And I am unable to subject myself to prolonged states of misery – Although this may have been the personality trait that got me to where I am today. More accurately, I will not subject myself to prolonged bouts of misery.
Now that I have this gift of health (that came from chronic illness), I’m not letting it go!
I’m no longer focused on chasing symptoms, but enjoying each day.
Whether you are deep in the trenches of chronic illness, experiencing persistent symptoms, or just want to optimize your health to avoid ending up with either…