I am in the middle of having therapy, it is trauma focussed CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) along side talking therapy. This is to help me with the feelings I have had around years of illness, surgeries and ongoing illness. Though I was nervous going into it, it has been hugely helpful to me. I wanted to talk a little about acceptance today.
In my head, accepting my illness felt like giving in, like losing hope and accepting that my life will always be a bit shit. But in working with my therapist, I am learning about how that warped view is holding me back. Acceptance to me now is about giving myself the freedom to let go of all the negative feelings and learning how to use coping strategies to live with chronic illness in a way that allows me to have the happiest life I can.
I am realising just how much guilt, shame and anger I have carried with me. Guilt in how my illness has effected my family and friends, shame of the imagined failure of my body and anger that I am not ‘normal’. And what I have learnt is how those feelings are holding me back and don’t have any positive outcome.
I have been incredibly poorly for half my life now, starting with ulcerative colitis and leading to multiple surgeries to remove my large intestine, then my rectum and onto life with hernias that cause daily pain and struggle. My first surgery was in 2013 when I had my first ileostomy formed and my last surgery was in February 2020 where I had a lot of complications, including my kidneys shutting down and I nearly died.
Till my last surgery, I was always hopeful. But that hope was a dream of returning to a life with no illness or pain. And so after my last op failed yet again I was told that I had reached the limits of medical science, and that it was now a matter of managing my symptoms and achieving the best quality of life I could with pain and illness. As my doctor said this to me, I felt crushed. I felt that I had no hope any more and that I was being given a long, slow death sentence. I was reeling and didn’t know how I could possibly live like this.
That’s why I started therapy, to help me deal with these feelings of utter hopelessness.
And slowly but surely, it is working. I am letting go of the negativity and beginning to work on making my life the best it can be. I’m questioning myself when that mean spirited voice we all have in our head and telling it to shut up! It isn’t the big things so much, as the little ones.
Accepting that it is ok for me to get a taxi to work. Before I would force myself to get public transport because I refused to accept that I couldn’t do a ‘normal’ thing like getting the bus and then doing a full day at work. It’s almost like I was punishing myself. Now, I get the damn taxi if I need to! And I celebrate the fact that I am well enough that day to go to work.
I accept that I may not ever climb a mountain but that is OK. I may never run a marathon, or cycle for miles, or swim the channel. Before I would beat myself up about these things, so angry that my illness has robbed me of opportunities. But this anger has zero positive outcome, so why I am wasting my time and energy with it.
I can give up these ideas of things that most people in the world will never do and just revel in the things that I can do. I have a job I love, working with my husband. I have wonderful friends, fantastic kids and I am studying Fine Art at university at the age of 40! I have this blog that allows me to connect with people all over the world and offer support. I love to travel both abroad and in the UK in my camper van, I have visited some amazing places around the world. I have a nice home, I am safe and secure, I love and I am loved by some of the most brilliant humans in the world.
I was wasting so much effort worrying about the things that I cannot do that I lose sight of the life that I do have. And it is pretty bloody good.
I’m not 100% there, but every day I am learning acceptance.
I will probably always live in daily pain, have to take many medications every day and not be physically able to do everything that I want to do. But that’s ok because it is the life I have and my illness is just one part of that life.
I love and I am loved.
I think if we can say that, then whatever our other circumstances, we are pretty lucky.
Peace and love