Having Fibromyalgia is like a roller coaster ride. Most days I just don’t know how I am going to feel. I try to have a positive mindset and I find it helps when I’m around others with a positive mindset as well. However, I realized that not everyone wants to hear or see positivity right now. Frankly, I can understand that – I use to feel that way too. I started to realize I have a choice in either suffering from fibromyalgia or fighting it.
My Suffering Journey
I was not always positive about my attitude towards my illness. In fact, you can read my first article on admitting I was sick publicly, Coming Out With An Invisible Illness. In addition to not being positive, I didn’t want anyone to know I was sick. It was like my dirty secret.
Why didn’t I want people to know?
- If people knew, they might want to talk about it.
- Telling people I was sick was admitting it to them and myself.
- Admitting I was sick might mean I wasn’t able to fulfill my goals.
- If I admitted I was sick I might have to slow down and put myself first.
- How can I put myself first, when for so long I have put others first?
- If I put myself over others, I would feel selfish.
- I said a main reason was I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I said that because really, I felt sorry for myself and was ashamed of that feeling.
- If people knew, they might think I was weak.
- Staying in denial meant I didn’t need to make any changes.
- My self-esteem was too caught up in how others viewed me (still is). If they thought differently of me, like I was less than I used to be…. maybe I was less than.
This way of thinking only made my illness scream louder at me that I needed to stop. Fibromyalgia is hardly ever on its own. On the contrary, it has a web of other illnesses that usually come with it. So pushing my mind, body and soul beyond its limits is something Fibromyalgia does not like. When my body finally gave out on me, I had to face my illness and myself. Doing something like this makes a person go through the stages of grief. So, one of those stages is finally acceptance, right? That is what happened, I accepted I was sick.
In doing so I became very depressed. I did what I had been dreading, I felt sorry for myself. The negative self-talk was going like crazy at this point.
- “I don’t know how I’m going to do my job anymore”
- “I’m a horrible mother, I can’t even take my son outside for a walk”
- “How can I finish school? I can’t! I’m going to have to quit”
- “Why me?”
- “I’m not strong enough”
- “When will this end”
I know you can relate to some of these. Honestly, this way of thinking and living can take a person down a dark path. You might be asking, “Why are you telling me all of this?” Well friend, I am telling you to show you how deeply negative my thinking can get. So, how do I pull myself from the negative to the positive you so often see from me?
Path To Positivity: It Is A Choice!
Yes, I make a choice each and every time. I choose to find some light in the darkness and so can you. It takes practice and a little effort, but I’m confident you can do it. Here are some steps to help you through.
- Write down all the positive qualities about yourself and save this for later.
- Mine would be: sense of humor, kindness, wit, intelligence, & empathy.
- When a negative thought appears, pull out your list (if you need to).
- This is where you remind yourself of the positives from your list.
- Yes, I have fibromyalgia and I’m in pain. However, I am also funny and can laugh at myself. I got this!
- Yes, I am feeling depressed right now. It seems to be pulling me farther into the darkness and all seems hopeless. However, you have pulled yourself out of darkness like this before! You are strong-willed and determined and you got this!
- Put this on repeat (believe me it takes practice).
How To Make Changes
Now you may be saying this is great, but this alone can’t change my negativity. This is true. There are more tools you can use to keep yourself positive.
- Mindfulness – yes, meditation can help keep you focused. There are many different types of meditation available. I encourage you to pursue one and make it a daily ritual.
- Gratitude – I learned in my positivity psychology class, that one of the ways to pursue happiness is to show gratitude. Give it a try by writing a letter to someone you know that did something nice for you. Simply put, let them know how much that gesture meant to you and thank them. Trust me on this- it will feel good.
- Goal setting – You might be thinking this is where I lose you. This one will be different for everyone. Some of us are really very sick and can barely function. I know there is a goal you can set for yourself though. I recently set a goal of walking for 5 minutes every day. To those who can easily walk longer, that might not seem like much. However, to those who can’t even walk 5 minutes you know how big that can be. Making your goal small and obtainable will leave you feeling positive when you accomplish it.
Fighting vs. Suffering
So, are you fighting your chronic illness? Or, are you suffering from your chronic illness? This is a choice only you can make. It is personal and individual and there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. You can even do both sometimes I know I do.
Fighting your chronic illness means that every day you choose to keep going, even when you think you can’t anymore. It means that you consciously turn your negative thoughts about yourself and your illness into something positive. Lastly, fighting your chronic illness means that you will not be its victim.
Suffering from your chronic illness means that you let your illness control you. Don’t get me wrong, our illness always controls us in some aspect whether we like it or not. However, when we suffer, we have no choices, we are the victim.
As you can see, in both these scenarios we have the same illness. In one we feel more in control than we do in the other. As I said before, there are days I am fighting fibromyalgia and days I am suffering from it. The difference is the way I choose to look at it, with positivity or negativity. We can’t control that we have a chronic illness, but we can control how we handle it from here.
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