I’ve written a few pieces for The Mighty lately, a website aimed towards people touched by illness and disability, however a lot of their stories are great reads for any audience. This piece went up yesterday and while I wrote it with readers of The Mighty in mind, I’m sharing it here, too, because everyone could use a little encouragement from time to time! So here it is…
My doctor sat at his desk facing his computer as he read through my chart and got updated on the various specialists I’d seen and the tests I’d had done since my last appointment with him.
He turned around and said, “So pretty much you’ve become a professional patient.”
It’s true. I’ve seen several new specialists lately and am waiting to see a few more. This is a good thing, because it means that after years of trying to politely convince my doctors that there are other things going on, I’m finally getting somewhere. I don’t yet know exactly where that somewhere is, but I’m happy to be on my way all the same and I’m thankful for the understanding and committed doctors who are helping me get there.
But it’s still hard. I’m tired of waiting months for appointments to come up. I’m tired of playing trial and error with new medications. I’m tired of day in and day out just not feeling well. I expressed this frustration to my doctor although I knew there was nothing he could do about it. What he said, however, actually did help.
He said, “I know. But you’re doing a good job and I think you’re handling everything really well.”
It was the perfect thing to say. There was no pressure that I put on a brave face. There was no expectation that I be upbeat and optimistic all the time. There was no dismissal with false hope or empty consolation.
Instead, there was awareness of the “chronic” part of chronic illness. There was permission to be realistic. There was understanding that I was weary and there was validation that even though sometimes it seemed as if I was stuck in one place, weighted down by my illness, I was actually still moving forward.
And because of all that I also felt encouraged. I was doing a good job. I could keep doing that.
It was exactly what I needed to hear and I can’t help but think that maybe you need to hear it, too.
So I want to tell you that you’re doing a good job.
Maybe, like me, you are facing a chronic illness or disability. When you feel like you’re running around in circles searching for a diagnosis, you are advocating for yourself. When you struggle through difficult treatments and procedures, you are giving yourself a chance at a better future. And when you find yourself facing a feeding tube, a wheelchair or any other medical device, you are working within your limitations to be as well as possible and live a life as full as possible. You’re doing a good job.
Maybe you love for and care for someone with a chronic illness or disability. When you are breaking down the walls of your comfort zone in order to learn to care for your loved one, you are working to accept your new normal. When you are putting in hours of planning and preparation to help your loved one carry on with life as normally as possible, you are proving that a challenging life can still be a meaningful one. When you set aside your exhaustion, pain and fear to help your loved one through those feelings of their own, you are teaching them how to be resilient. You’re doing a good job.
We’ve all got something. It doesn’t even have to be illness or disability. We all have things in our lives that are hard.
Sometimes we get defeated. Sometimes we are angry at our circumstances and feel sorry for ourselves. Sometimes we compare ourselves to others and get jealous of those who appear to have it easier. And that’s all okay, because other times our spirits triumph. Other times we choose to laugh instead of cry and choose to be grateful for what we do have instead of bitter about what we’ve lost. Other times we reach out and take everything we’ve learned through our struggles to help someone else face their own.
We don’t have it all together all the time. We’re not supposed to. But we do what we can. We do our best.
So don’t be afraid to give yourself some credit and acknowledge your own strength. Don’t be afraid to give yourself the affirmation that you need. Whether you are thriving or simply just surviving, you are doing your best.
And you are doing a good job.