Aging, Suffering, Transforming, Navigating, Visualizing: These are the prompts for July from A Chronic Voice. This is always a fun and challenging post because I have to share things that I maybe never thought of sharing. I like to try and use these words to speak about how chronic illness affects my life.
I’ve been thinking more about aging in the last few months. I turned 59 in May and feel the pull to the big 6-0. I don’t want to be in my 60’s, but if I am blessed to live that long it will happen. Many of the pains in my body from arthritis, EDS, and Sjogren’s could be felt by people when they get old. I’ve felt these things at a much younger age. There is no way to compare one person’s pain to anothers and I don’t want to.
I see many people who are older that have wonderful health, muscle tone, and energy. These people often don’t live with chronic pain. Some of these people have awesome genes that allow them to live this life. Some people have worked hard to have these things. But, we know that having good health isn’t something that we can control. Those people who do believe that they control their health are naive.
Having genetic problems, like EDS, means that I was born with a connective tissue disorder. I certainly couldn’t control this fact. Because it isn’t diagnosed often enough, I was in my 50’s before I was diagnosed. This lack of knowledge meant that I did many things that made my EDS pain worse, like going to a chiropractor for 25 years. The chiropractor popped all my spine and neck joints and they became looser because of that. So, my problems with severe neck pain were made worse just because I was ignorant of my real health condition.
Aging with chronic illness and chronic pain is horrible, but the alternative is worse.
I do suffer, but I don’t say that to get pity. I suffer from dry eyes and mouth. My skin is severely dry and cracks open. This is a non-stop pain. My neck and back is always painful. My hands and feet throb and my knees hurt. I suffer from severe fatigue, blurred vision, and terrible memory (made worse from my medications). Numbness and racing heart rate is usually helped by medicines, but breaks through sometimes. Headaches were chronic migraines in the past, but thankfully only occur now when my neck is super-tight.
Suffering is a day-to-day thing for me and I’ve learned to live with it. Suffering has taught me many things about myself and about life in general. I’ve learned to truly appreciate the small things in life that are good. The world is more beautiful to me than it was before suffering became the most noticeable thing in my life. Relationships are more valuable to me now, but only with the people who are worth my effort. There’s no time for hateful people. I don’t have any time for hate.
The Bible says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NIV
I believe that God has been working to transform me to His will and am thankful for that. Having chronic illness has certainly transformed me from an energetic musician and teacher into a couch potato who no longer is able to play an instrument. But, there are other things in life more important than energy and music. There is love. I want to love others, share good things with others, and become a better Christian.
After moving to the Mid-West, I had to learn to navigate a new health care system. There was new insurance to purchase and new doctors to find. Finding a new rheumatologist, cardiologist, dermatologist, pain specialist, sleep specialist, dentist, and family doctor wasn’t easy. There were many google searches, phone calls, and introductory visits. Waiting to become a new patient always takes a lot longer, but that’s what has to be done. Living in this new place isn’t permanent, so I know there will be other places to navigate in the future.
I’ve been staying with my mother recently in another state because of her dementia. I’ve had to cancel numerous medical appointments back home. When I return there will be many calls to make as I will need to navigate the medical system to try and schedule new appointments. I’m just hoping that this absence won’t result in a big drop in my health.
Do you participate in visualizing? It can be useful for different things, including helping to reduce anxiety. I use it when I’m stressed to imagine myself in the place that will be peaceful for me. I love to visualize the type of home I want to live in. My family has lived in a townhome the last two times we’ve moved. We plan to purchase a home in a few years and love to talk about the style of home we hope to buy. One of the things I imagine the most is to have a room with bookshelves. We have a large collection of books and they have stayed boxed up because our current home doesn’t have room.
When I am my most stressed I love to get alone and think about this. There are many ways to visualize a peaceful setting for yourself. When some people meditate they visualize a peaceful location. When I pray, I don’t really visualize in that way, but I do enter into a time where I focus on God and His goodness and mercy towards me.
I hope that your July is going well and that you are finding time to take care of yourself. It’s a daily battle to put our needs ahead of the long to-do list that fills up our calendar. But, always take the time to help yourself as much as you can. And, never be afraid to ask for help.
@2021, copyright Lisa Ehrman