In the midst of a bad situation, it is difficult to imagine reaching the other side of the abyss. Powerful emotions prevent us from envisioning a good outcome — particularly when chronic illness is involved.
Yet, hindsight provides us with a different perspective. Once we have weathered the storm and crossed that chasm, we sometimes wonder why we didn’t have the faith or confidence that we could not only survive but have a better life than what we ever imagined.
There are quite a few times when I have faced situations in which I felt completely helpless and hopeless. Most of them were forced upon me by chronic illness and had little to do with my own decisions and actions.
For example, when I was a sophomore in college, my rheumatoid arthritis returned with a vengeance after being absent from my life for several years. At the time, I felt like my adult life was destroyed. The life I had planned for myself completely dissolved within just a few weeks.
But the bright spot was that when my RA returned, a few changes became necessary. I had to make the transition from being someone who was more focused on finding a good party to attend to one who engaged in more cerebral activities due to the physical limitations RA presented to me.
My grade point average saw a huge increase. Ultimately, I benefited from the reemergence of my RA. I learned to take better care of my body, and I focused more on the components of creating a good career for myself. I still reap those benefits today.
At the time, however, I was convinced that the evil disease would do nothing but cause me to suffer. And while I have experienced some limitations, I have also discovered many positive aspects of my situation. I do realize it sounds quite counterintuitive to even contemplate a degenerative illness bringing something “good” to our lives.
Yes, it’s so incredibly difficult to be in the throes of misfortune, pain, and suffering and to find that golden nugget of hope. Usually, we will need to face our struggles and conquer at least a portion of them before we reap the benefits that hindsight offers.
It is almost impossible to see the good in a bad situation when you are hurting (physically, emotionally or both). Sometimes the emotions batter us as if we are a small ship in rough seas. We are tossed around as we experience grief, humility, loneliness, and sorrow. We feel as if we will surely be pulled under and drown.
The best advice I have for surviving the moment you are in is to set your sights on reaching the other side. It may take days, weeks, months or even years to make that journey and to be in a place where we can say, “Wow, I’m a better person because of this.”
Whether it’s the loss of a relationship because chronic illness took its toll or the loss of an ability to do something enjoyable, the journey from the dark side to the light may require every molecule of strength we have.
That voyage, however, will one day be worth the price you paid enduring it. I know that may seem like an impossibility if you are currently on one of these journeys. When I am forced to take these trips, I’m not happy about it either. Sometimes I fight these ill-timed expeditions by refusing to engage. I don’t WANT to go. I can’t AFFORD to go.
But since I am a seasoned traveler of these rough seas, I know in my heart that I must eventually cease the struggle and ride those waves. It’s simply the only way to get to the other side. And while I’ll probably become quite seasick along the way, I know that a lovely destination and happier times await me.
Be advised, however, that I’ll probably ask the time-honored question repetitively: “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
If you have successfully completed one of these journeys, I would love to hear your story. I welcome feedback in the comments section below as well as guest blog posts. Contact me here if you would like to share your travels.