When your season of life feels a war, one has no choice but to “hunker down” and do your best to survive.
I just watched the British war film 1917 and was blown away by the fight that these brave men fought, which renewed my gratefulness for those who are currently laying their lives down for the sake of our country and freedom in this current age. From my heart, thank you.
QUICK PREFACE. In this post, I in no way want to minimize the severity of true war. What I mean to convey is only a metaphor to describe what some seasons in my life have felt like, but I do not mean to offend or downplay the true struggle and PTSD that so many have to live with due to trauma and death.
On to my thoughts of the day. I’ve found that some seasons of life feel like war. They require everything out of you and make you question if it’s “worth it” to keep pushing on. In some ways, you don’t have a choice but to press on. But in other ways, it also seems so hopeless.
I’ve fought chronic illnesses for eight years now and it has been a roller coaster of a battle. To this day, I have not yet gotten my muscle inflammation to a stable place for longer than about 4 months in that entire time. It’s been lots of change and consistently wondering when this will end.
In 2017, my physical health plummeted to an all-time low as I had my parents and friends assist me with brushing and doing my hair; putting socks, pants, shirts, bras, and shoes on; bringing me food while I laid in bed most of the day; picking things up off the floor; helping me stand up. The world became "off limits” to me for a second time (the first was in the first four years of the disease). This lasted for almost a year until I started to see slow improvement again due to the many medical decisions I chose- blood plasma infusions, chemotherapy, immunosuppressants, strict diets, supplements, etc. (In another post, I will go into more detail on various types of health care and why I have chosen to do what I do). Since then, I have gained strength back slowly. Physical, yes, but especially mental, emotional, and spiritual strength. Overall, I have learned that every day’s struggle is to do what is right for me today.
I made a little list of some things I learned if I wanted to survive and get through each moment. I know I’m not sharing anything “new,” so I hope you reader find even just one of these to be a reminder and renewal of energy to fight.
1. Patience. Things take time. Whether it's putting shoes on, having consistently good days instead of bad, or developing a regular discipline. Every small thing is a big accomplishment.
2. Balance. With whatever you do, only exert 30% of your energy (thank you for this insight, Peg Malone). If you’re exerting too much energy, rest. That 30% will increase overtime based on how much energy and strength you build! But for those dealing with chronic illness, try to consistently balance your energy because 1) you’ll end up having more to give in the end and 2) you’ll let your body heal as needed.
3. Do the next right thing. Emily P. Freeman and Frozen 2 both have this concept on lockdown. If you don’t know what to do, breath and calm your mind. Do what the next right thing is for you and in this moment. And do it.
4. Rest and Let the expectations go. Chances are we are often doing too much, not too little. Never be too prideful to do what you know you need to for your body, your soul, and your health. Let go of expectations. Sit down for a while. Figure out what you can and can't do with the energy you've been given for the day, and do what you can. Intentionally skip out on what you can't so that you can later.
5. Focus on the joy that can be had right where you are. No need to focus on the future in times of crisis. Stay present and joyful.
6. Pick up a new hobby you can do. I remembered how much I loved ceramics in high school, so I decided to take a six-week wheel throwing class. It absolutely illuminated my life working towards a goal of finishing these ceramics. Also, tinkering on the piano has been my new love too. Find what you enjoy, and do more of it.
6. Don't play the comparison game. Keep your sight on your own lane and see the treasure that's in front of you to be had. Ask God to show you what He sees in your mess and what beautiful character and depth of relationship He wants to pull out of you in this season.
7. Be real with your community and support team. Internalize the fact that no one knows what you're really going through unless you tell them and ask for their prayer, help, and company. Only God knows how much each person who brought me flowers/gifts has blessed me and helped lift the heavy load with me. I am eternally grateful for them. One more note on this topic: Asking for help from people who love you and care about you is not an inconvenience; it's what you need to do to be healthy and stable. Besides, people often want to know how they can help and are happy to do it.
8. Pray. St. Pope Kyrillos VI says, “Prayer can do everything, for it moves the hand of Him who moves the whole universe.” To the extent that we lean into Christ in our suffering, we then participate in His death and are given His strength to resurrect with Him. This heart change of enduring suffering with joy can only come through prayer. (Practical tip: For myself, having a prayer book has been absolutely crucial and enlivened my prayer life so much! It has brought words and clarity to my emotions that I thought had no explanation and has helped me to pray in line with His will instead of my own. Click here for one of the books I use).
9. Stay hopeful by remembering the good. Thanks to what we’ve seen especially in recent neurological studies, the brain is incredibly resilient and can be re-trained through neuroplasticity to think in ways that were not previously thought possible. Remember, This is never the end. There are always more chapters ahead.