• Shruti

2014 Resolution: Acceptance

It took me a long time to settle on a resolution for this year. I wanted something that I could reasonably work on given my school & work commitments, but that would still feel like I was working on something important. In the end, I settled on something based on a comment that my therapist mentioned back in December. We were discussing how awful this winter’s bitterly cold weather is for my body to put up with. At one point, she asked me what I could do about the issue. Obviously, basically nothing. I’m not in a position to move to another state right now – not only because of my academic program, but also because I just don’t have the money. At best, I can try to wear even more, even warmer layers. She made a good point point: pretty much all I can do is accept it.

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In many ways, it feels as if this is just a big old metaphor for living with chronic illness. I can’t do anything at all about the fact that I have a chronic illness. I can’t do anything about the fact that my body reacts badly to almost any weather type. I can’t do anything about the fact that some people will never try to understand, and that others will never get it no matter how many times I patiently explain in excruciating detail. I can’t control how many medications are currently approved and I can’t control how my body reacts to them. Pretty much everything that I CAN do is akin to wearing more layers. I can take hot baths and I can use a heating pad. I can try to protect myself from the elements with winter gear, sun hats, and sunscreen. I can take various pain killers and try to eat only things that don’t seem to aggravate my body. I can make a concerted effort not to overwork and overextend myself. None of these things can fix the root problem of the chronic illness though.

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The funny thing about acceptance is that, apparently, I do a better job projecting high acceptance levels than actually having them. At a New Year’s Eve party, an acquaintance overheard me mention to a close friend that I was having a rough time [with my pain levels] due to the very low temperatures. This acquaintance asked what that meant exactly, and I explained. She was pretty shocked and wanted to know how I can possibly manage to live in the upper Midwest. I sort of shrugged and said that most places have something that makes them a problematic place for me to live – too much sun, too much rain, too much cold… none of these are ideal. My close friend, who had been listening to this exchange, made a comment about my having such a good attitude about it all.

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The truth is, though, that I rail against the unfairness of it all in my head all the time. I just try not to keep it under wraps because it tends to make people uncomfortable. I feel like they can’t do anything about it anyway, so what’s the point, right? What I’ve recently come to realize, though, is that I can’t do anything about it any more than they can. So why subject myself to my own constant, albeit silent, complaining when I won’t subject them to it? It isn’t helping me feel better (although I full admit that the occasional whine does feel good sometimes) and it’s having a pretty detrimental effect on my mood.

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So this year, my goal is to try to be better about just accepting the unchangeable realities of life with chronic illness. This doesn’t mean I’m going to go out o my way to disregard the lines. What it means is that I’m going to try to remind myself when I catch myself complaining that while I did not ask for this, I also can’t change it. I’m going to try to remind myself what works (and do it) rather than letting myself wallow for days when something happens like I end up cancelling plans with a friend. Sometimes twice in a row. I don’t want to make a resolution saying that I won’t complain, because I don’t think that I can keep that. I do think that I can try to remind myself whenever I catch myself whining, though. At the end of the day, there isn’t yet a cure for lupus or fibromyalgia, which means that I’m going to be living with it for the foreseeable future. Learning to accept that reality is a struggle, but I think that the acceptance of reality will relieve some of the emotional strain that comes with chronic illness.

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What are your resolutions this year?

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