When we think about our healing process we often picture it as a linear progress. We hope that with every day that comes, we're gonna feel a little bit better. One little step at the time until we reach our goal, whatever that might be.
That goal might be acceptance, inner peace, the improvement of a certain symptom or just overall health.
But the progress of healing is never a linear one and the sooner we learn to accept that, the easier it will get.
But why is it so hard to accept that healing comes with ups and downs?
When we suffer from chronic illness, our entire life is basically uncertain. It's uncertain how we will feel tomorrow, in a week, in a year. It is uncertain if there will ever be a cure. It is uncertain, if we will ever be able to get our old lives back. Our health makes it impossible to plan anything, because we can never know if we will be fit enough to do whatever we would like to do when the day comes. Even if we are not unreliable people, our health is often unreliable and that makes it difficult to plan ahead more than a few days. And that can be frustrating!
Imagine that there's a certain event in a few months time that you're looking forward to, but you can't be sure if you will be able to attend or not, because you simply can't predict if your health will allow you to.
Fear of missing out (or FOMO) is a legitimate fear if you're a spoonie and that can be hard.
Living with a certain level of uncertainty can be very hard to handle. Not knowing how you are going to feel in a week, or a month, can be very scary.
The most scary thing that can happen is when you suddenly feel much worse, after you have already felt better at some point.
That little bit of life quality you suddenly got back, that relieve of symptoms you've been waiting for- and suddenly it's gone again and you're feeling even worse.
Sometimes it can be really hard to figure out why some symptoms have worsened again. Did I do too much again without realizing it? Did I eat the wrong things? Am I allergic to something new? Is it bad Karma? Is this a flare-up or did I actually catch a cold?
It can be very unsettling and scary to go through something like this.
You maybe don't know how it happened, and you also don't know how to get out of it again, or if you will get out of it.
You might have to cancel plans you made with friends, things you've been looking forward to, because you just feel way too bad, and that can be extremely frustrating and sad.
The worst thing about an aggravation of symptoms are the feelings of guilt.
Sometimes we can't help feeling guilty when our symptoms get worse. Our mind revolves around the question "what did I do wrong" and "I shouldn't have done this" or "I should have done that!"
A while ago I came down with a flu after a few very intense days.
As much as I tried not to give in to these thoughts, I just couldn't help but feel utterly guilty at some point. I was lying in bed with a fever and a nasty cough, feeling like absolute crap.
At this point I was so isolated for a few days already, not able to do anything enjoyable or productive and I just felt sad, lonely and guilty. I felt like I put myself in this situation because I didn't take care of myself enough. I was scared my symptoms wouldn't get better for a long time, scared that I would be isolated for weeks.
With one word- it was depressing.
But after a while I realized, that I couldn't really have done anything differently, at least not that easily. The stress I was going through in the days before I got sick, was hardly avoidable. I also had some very positive moments in that time that were absolutely worth going through the stress. But a lot of things came together in a very bad combination, my sleep was also very bad for a while and all of that together just weakened my immune system.
But what would the alternative have been? Staying at home, not doing anything nice at all?
I can't just be safe all the time just to avoid getting worse. Sometimes we need to live a little. I tried my best to get enough rest, but with my sleep being as bad as it was, it was just not possible to get enough.
Maybe I could have done things a bit differently, but realistically - I couldn't, unless I would have just cancelled every single thing I was looking forward to.
The truth is- when you end up in a bad situation, it's very easy to jump to the conclusion that it would have been avoidable. It's very easy to fall into the trap of being angry at yourself, revolving around the what-ifs. If we think like that, we might come to a conclusion that next time we can do better. That something like this is not going to happen anymore.
But the reality is- it probably will.
Things like that will happen again and again. Because we can't always avoid everything that's negative.
Sometimes things happen, that are beyond our control. Sometimes we do everything right, we try our very best, and we still get worse. And that is scary and hard to accept. But the sooner we learn to accept this, the better we will get at handling these situations.
And if things like that happen- we need to learn to forgive ourselves. Feelings of guilt or being angry at ourselves isn't going to make the healing process any easier- on the contrary! We can help our healing process much more if we learn to be empathetic with ourselves and focus more on self-care instead of self-hate and guilt. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but with time we can learn this.
But in order to get there we have to work on our acceptance every day by letting go of our expectations. The less expectations you have, the less disappointment you will feel when certain expectations don't come true. Which is also not an easy process that can happen over night, but also something that will get easier with time, if we work on it.
Our healing process will always be full of ups and downs. There will be times where we feel better, and times where we feel worse.
But one thing is for sure- after every bad phase there will be a good phase again. After every down comes the up. Everything bad will pass at some point.
The only thing we can do in a bad phase is to make the best out of it. Take as much self- care, that we can. Surround ourselves with the best people and accept all the help, that we can get, because we deserve it!
Our goal shouldn't be to never have a bad phase again. Those are unavoidable. (As I said before- as spoonies we need to throw perfectionism out of the window!)
But we can learn to accept those bad phases and handle them better, and make our peace with it. So the next time a bad phase hits us, it won't hit us as hard.
How do you handle your ups and downs?
Feel free to share if you want to!