One of the hardest things to come to terms with in life, is that the only certainty is uncertainty itself. Change is inevitable, and that is not a bad thing. Sometimes it can seem bad, particularly when you face the need to alter life goals due to unforeseen circumstances – and sometimes this can happen more than once, like it did for me. This does not make it “bad”, all it means is that an adjustment period is required. In hindsight, it often appears that everything happens for a reason. There are pro’s and con’s for every situation.
In an ever-changing world, the only constant that remains to an individual are core values. These can help. Honestly, I have found that rebuilding confidence is quite difficult. I tend to struggle to believe in myself, and in my capabilities, on a regular basis. I tend to forget about what I have achieved, or the positive things I have done, and focus instead on what I cannot do. Thus, mindset makes a big difference. It is easy to fall down the rabbit hole of negativity, but once in there you need to find ways to climb back up instead of the much easier route of spiraling down. Discovering the root cause is a challenge within itself. For me, it was the realisation that I now seem to lack direction, which in turn made me feel hopeless and worthless. My whole life I was driven by what I wanted to work towards for my future, mainly career, lifestyle and such. I always dreamed of success and happiness in the working world. Hence, my life was practically turned upside down when I fell chronically ill. Instead of dwelling on this turning of events (as I had already done this enough, and probably a little too much), I decided to evaluate what exactly I missed about how my life used to be, in order to determine whether I could get back to a similar point, or at the very least to a similar mindset. Continue reading
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), or more commonly labelled as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is an immunological and neurological dysfunction disorder. It is characterised by a severe worsening of symptoms after minimal physical or cognitive exertion. ME is a chronic illness that lasts for years and is often lifelong. It is a controversial diagnosis in need of more awareness and understanding. Due to a lack of medical education and government research around ME, many affected by the disease remain misdiagnosed or even dismissed, being wrongly told their severe disabilities are a result of their imagination.
There have been various articles discussing ME in prominent newspapers all around the world, such as the New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Australian. Despite this, the stigma seems to continue surrounding the disease, mostly due to a lack of understanding by both the medical community and the general community. It is an invisible illness, so people will not often “look sick” on the outside, yet their lives are often so compromised that the majority of suffers cannot work, some remaining permanently housebound. Researchers have estimated, among those who have received a diagnosis, that approximately 150,000 Australians, 1-2.5 million Americans, 250,000 British people, and 400,000 Canadians have ME.
“I don’t know is a beautiful thing. I don’t know is where a discovery starts.”
Creating confidence through chronic illness is an up and down process. We often cannot do as much as we used to be able to do, across many facets of our lives. Once we’ve built ourselves up, something else may come along and throw us back down again. However, this seems to be just the way life is, it is a roller-coaster. We can make a choice to stay strong, to look for the silver lining. When I catch myself being afraid of the future, I remind myself that I should instead focus on my next step.
In order to get through difficult times, I pay attention to things that I can look forward to each day. For example, my morning coffee, writing for my blog, having the time to read or paint when my mind and body permits. I practice mindfulness. I look for little bits of inspiration, Pinterest is a great one for that. I really enjoy reading various blogs on WordPress. I admire the stories and posts; the various topics people write about; the insightful discussions that ensue; and love the supportive community.
Symbols are a strong motivator and coping mechanism for me. When I was going through different struggles in the past, I bought myself an arrow necklace. For me, the arrow symbolizes strength, focus and determination. When I wore it, the necklace gave me confidence to keep trying – that no matter what difficulties I faced, I had to just keep aiming forward. It worked. Another symbol is the Phoenix, the mythical creature whose core is in line with Maya Angelou’s great poem, “Still I Rise”. An anchor reminds me to stay focused on the present, to be mindful, and just do what I can for now. The wildflower, the symbol of persistence and independence from which I named my blog, are flowers that grow and flourish no matter what environments or situations they face. Continue reading
I never wanted to be one of those people who simply “exist”, those who just go through the motions of life without actually living. Experiencing adventure, trying new things, helping those who need it, are important to me. The thing is, with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), you’re permanently exhausted along with a myriad of disabling physical and mental symptoms that I prefer not to bore you with. If you have ever seen a video of a sloth moving, it gives a pretty good indication of how it feels. Continue reading
Since becoming chronically ill, I have been unable to keep up my main sporting hobbies and interests. I used to love training various forms of martial arts (combat fitness, kickboxing, mixed martial arts). I am outdoorsy with a passion for nature, so naturally I loved hiking and horse riding. I have gone from high intensity training three times per week plus walking at least 4kms per weekday, to now not being able to have the energy to walk around a small zoo. My exercise has been limited to short walks and hydrotherapy.
Conversely, I have been able to rediscover hobbies and interests I otherwise would not have had the time to. I have brought back my love of art and creativity, through sketching and painting. These modes of expression are an emotional release, as well as a silencer for my ever-racing thoughts. Continue reading
This is the way I view life with chronic illness. Even though my “wings” may be broken, I still have the capacity to fly. Practicing gratitude, appreciating the little things, and meaningful distractions all add to the fuel which drives my fire not to give up. Here are some of the more prominent lessons I have learnt from being chronically ill: Continue reading
Feeling like a lost cause, a waste of potential. Sometimes, I find myself missing veterinary school. Above all, I miss the way my life was in Sydney. The new friends I had made, being out of my comfort zone, having the freedom to finally find myself. I am incredibly grateful for my time there – the experiences, the lessons. It was a difficult journey consisting mostly of a lack of sleep, intense levels of pressure, and crazy working hours. Was it mercy or was it a curse that made me fall ill? A blessing in disguise perhaps? It is difficult to tell. While I did fall of the path I loved, I learned some invaluable lessons along the way.