It’s impossible not to grieve your own life when chronic illness happens. You miss what you used to know, and feel, and be. That’s allowed, it’s a process that’s necessary and that you should absolutely let happen. That’s my new phrase, by the way. Instead of saying “it’s okay”, from now on I’m going to try to say “it’s allowed”. Because telling someone it’s okay to grieve for their past isn’t true. It isn’t okay, it’s a heart-wrenching and frustrating mess of emotions. And you can bet that in the middle of it “it’s okay” isn’t really all that useful. But you knew that already. It just spills out your mouth as a filler because you don’t know what else you’re meant to say. Truth is you’re not actually meant to say anything. However I find telling someone they’re allowed to feel the way they do is a powerful thing. It’s honest, but it’s also small in the most wonderful way. It’s not a grand sweeping gesture of “everything will be fine, we’ll fix it”. You’re simply agreeing that this is shitty, and admitting that you don’t have an answer. You’re saying that however they’re choosing to process the situation is utterly valid.
Chronic illness changes you, and makes you give you some of (or all of) your favourite things. There is nothing okay about that. It’s crap. I miss the gym, and the pool, and running. I miss nights out, day trips, and weekends away. I miss working. I miss this, I miss that. Those things helped make up who I thought I was. And so I had to figure out who I was without them. I might never get back to doing all of those things. Which strangely feels shameful to say. As if that’s me “giving up” or “giving in”, that it’s not showing enough of a “positive attitude”. Pfft, what does that even mean anyway? I’m working out where I go from here, I wouldn’t say that’s being negative.
Chronic illness recovery is often looked at in the sense of “how can I get back what I’ve lost?” Honestly, who knows. Who knows if that can happen. But instead, maybe we could look at it from the standpoint of “what can I build on from here?” Notice how I didn’t say “rebuild”? Stop trying to emulate your past, honestly it’s just so exhausting to do so. Your future doesn’t have to look like your past in order for it to be worth something. I’m not saying it has to be the total opposite either. It’ll just be a mix of who you were then, and who you are now. That’s allowed.
Right now I feel a bit like a Jenga tower with a load of pieces missing, however for this analogy to work you’re going to have to do me a favour and completely disregard the objective of Jenga. Basically I feel a bit uneasy. I’ve got my missing pieces on standby in case I can use them further down the line. They’re not forgotten about. But for now I need to figure out what my new pieces are going to be, to fill in some of the gaps, so that I feel more stable – more whole. Someone telling me it’s okay to feel wobbly isn’t really what I want to hear. Because it doesn’t feel okay to me. Someone telling me I’m allowed to feel wobbly – now that’s a different story.