As of 2012, about half of all American adults suffer from some kind of chronic health condition. Like mine, many of them are invisible. Pain has become a way of life for me. And I know I’m not alone.
I suffer from scoliosis and chronic back pain.
There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed. My alarm clock is begging me to get up and go to work or meet friends for a hike, but my body is begging for mercy. If only I could pull the covers over my head and hide until the pain subsides.
Anyone who has chronic pain can relate. Some days are okay while others are intense. But just like anyone else, I only get 365 days every year to live my life to the fullest. And I’m not going to let my chronic illness get in the way of living a happy life.
Everyone is going through something
Whether you’re among half of Americans who suffer from chronic illness or not, you have your own burdens to bear. We all do. People say you should be nice to everyone because you never know what someone is going through. I know that to be true. No one can see or understand my pain because they’re not living it. This is true for me, and it’s true for many other people too. And when it comes down to it, I really don’t want people to understand my burden. I want to present the best version of myself, regardless of what’s going on with my back. I don’t always succeed, but that’s my goal.
Hope is an important part of happiness
I’ve been through some pretty dark times in my life. Pain and depression led me down a very hopeless path. I can say from my own experience that hope and happiness are bedfellows. One cannot shine without the other. In order to be truly happy in the face of adversity, you must have hope.
I’ve also been in a place where I let my chronic illness run my life. And I can say with great certainty that it’s hard to have hope when you’re focused on pain. When I began to turn things around, I realized that I needed other things to look forward to. I needed to shift my focus from pain towards happiness. It was a process, for certain, but I eventually found a few hobbies that became more like passions.
If you’re in a place where you can’t see beyond your illness, it’s time to turn things around. When you’re doing all, you can to manage symptoms, the only thing left to do is enjoy life to the best of your ability. Experiment with different hobbies to find something you can look forward to doing.
Treatments are always evolving
It’s important to find hope that has nothing to do with your chronic illness, but it’s also important to have hope that there will eventually be a cure or a more effective treatment.
When it comes to disease and pain management, everyone must walk their own path. Some people stick to the road well-traveled, others stray far from the beaten path, and some people take a moderate approach. Personally, I’ll try anything to help heal my pain. That’s at least part of what led me to an opioid addiction, but it’s also what gives me hope for better days.
I need to lay off the pain meds now, so I’m always experimenting with alternative therapies. I’ve tried stem cell treatments, acupuncture, and dietary changes. If you’ve heard of it, I’ve probably tried it. I can’t say that one treatment, in particular, has been the holy grail of pain relief, but I’ve found some merit in most of the alternative therapies I’ve tried.
Meditation is one that I would suggest to anyone suffering from any type of chronic illness. Meditation helps strengthen the mind, and we all know, this is as much of a mental battle as it is physical.
We only get this one life
As cliché as it sounds, we only get this one life. When the clock runs out, nothing else matters. All the plans you had for “when you’re feeling better” go out the window.
None of us know exactly how much time we have to do everything. We only know that we have this moment right here. At the risk of sounding macabre, your life (or mine) could end before the sun rises again. This is why I don’t put my life on hold because of chronic illness, and you shouldn’t either.
This isn’t to say that you should put your health at risk, though. Just like me, you’ll probably have to be careful about overexerting or doing anything that could worsen your condition. But within reason, never let your chronic illness get in the way of your life.
Perspective is important when it comes to living a happy life despite chronic illness. It’s not always easy to shift your perspective, but it’s always worthwhile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: TREVOR MCDONALD
Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing since he was a young adult. He has written a variety of education, health, self- development and lifestyle articles. In his free time, you can find him playing with his dog, writing stories at his favorite coffee shop, or laying out on the beautiful beaches of San Diego. You can find more about Trevor on his LinkedIn.