The limitations of chronic illness are many and are unique to each person. The realities of “I can’t” are much of what makes depression so common in those who are chronically ill. For me those I can’t’s feel like a weight tied to me, holding me back from things that everyone else takes for granted. While everyone else complains about their jobs, I see them going to work each week and find myself fighting discontentment. I can’t work right now. I can’t support myself. I can’t.
Saying “I can’t” may seem to go against all the chirpy, peppy, go-get-’em, reach-for-the-stars crap we’ve been fed since childhood, but there’s a lot of good in realizing and coming to terms with what can’t be done. It’s healthier to understand your limitations than to push until you burn out, right? Exceeding your physical limits isn’t an option when your body is already in distress. It’s a difficult reality that we face on a daily basis.
But for myself and many others with chronic illness, it doesn’t end there. We learn to re-evaluate and prioritize. The truth is that we can’t do what many others can, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything at all. There’s this ambition ingrained in us that doesn’t die, even when it’s crippled by frustration and depression. Maybe it’s the little kid in us that is only fueled by being told we can’t do something. Maybe it’s our human instinct to “do”. To create. To add something to this world. Whatever it is that inspires us, chronic illness is the obstacle that tells us it’s impossible; but it’s also the thing that forces us to think outside the box and make our own path.
It’s the thing that pushes so many of us to start our own businesses and find ways to work from home. Sometimes it’s about the satisfaction of being able to actually provide for yourself in some way, even if it’s small. Sometimes it’s simply the need for an artistic outlet. And sometimes it’s a desire to make a difference, to add your voice, or to raise awareness. All of these things are what drove me to publish my book on the realities of chronic illness. And without my own illness there telling me what I can’t do, I never would have discovered this was something I could do.
The reality is that chronic illness stinks. It really does. There’s no sugar-coating it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life and I know I’m not alone in that. We’re always fighting. Fighting to survive and to thrive. Fighting for cures and relief. We are so often battered and bruised, hurt and exhausted. But the hidden beauty of all this is that this makes us some of the most creative, inventive, and unique people. It makes us some of the best advocates because we can’t do what everyone else does so we see things differently. And whether we struggle quietly and privately or express our battles publicly, we are each uniquely gifted to pave our own paths around the I can’t’s and create new ways to accomplish the ordinary and the extraordinary.