By Lillian China Smith
Some things we want can’t be bottled, brought, or swallowed to make us feel better when it comes to illness. Sometimes with illness, well, with me, I was unhappy that I was sick, and with my chronic illness. And I wanted to be better, and that unhappiness grew and grew because I wished that I could just be better. I wanted a solution so badly. I wanted a cure, I wanted a healthy body.
But I’ve had to learn to accept my body as it is, chronic illness or not, sick or not, and be happy as I am, and grow my own happiness, in all my body’s various states and forms, whether or not I’m stuck in bed with a flare, or whether or not I’m doing well that day. It’s been tough, because with illness, it’s not easy to always be happy. Illness is unpleasant.
Nobody wants to be happy when you are in pain. Nobody wants to be happy all the time when you are suffering. Sure, it is easier to look to sadness and wonder why you aren’t going to ever get better. But accepting facts as facts, and working on your recovery, and growing your own happiness, are a solution that you can change. That is something that you can take action on.
In my Recovery from Lupus and Chronic Illness, I have had to learn to grow my own happiness, regardless of what illness brings me. It is an inside job, meaning, being happy with your life, and yourself, no matter what happens. You are you, and that is what matters. Be happy with yourself first, love yourself, and grow from there. It sounds ridiculous, maybe to some, but it’s really the truth. Happiness doesn’t mean necessarily having everything that you want, it means having the simple things in life, and peace with yourself and kindness to others, and inner bliss and self compassion, as well as self respect, and self kindness, amongst other things. I always believed if I was well that I would finally be happy at last, and all my problems would be solved. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. I became happy when I made peace with myself.
When I finally did get better, and got “my life back,” it didn’t seem to make a difference to me, because I had already found happiness. I still have sick days, but I have found the sense of happiness that I was looking for when I was sick, and depressed about being sick. When I have pain now and again, I get frustrated, but, I don’t let it get me down. I feel like I have beaten that part of my life now. I remember times when I didn’t think happiness was possible, especially during flares, and I can tell you now, sitting here, that it is, and that recovery is possible, too. Today I am healthy, to my wildest dreams, and it shocks even me to think about how sick I was before. I am so grateful today to have this working body. I don’t wake up in pain, and I walk around, and don’t use a cane, and I don’t have sore joints, and I don’t take tons of pain medications. And, by some miracle, it has all worked out for me.
And, I am happy. And I worked hard to get there. I worked hard, on the inside, it took strength, and hard work, and determination, and a lot of hanging on in the dark moments, and thinking, “I won’t give up,” even when I wanted to, even if I thought I couldn’t get by, or get through it, or stick through it or last one more night. I tried, and I would think about one good thought to get me through that bad night, or that bad moment, for just one more time, just to make it one more night, of through that bad moment of that flare, and then I would be able to get through the pain for those five minutes, or that evening, and then I found myself waking up the next day and I could try again.
And here I am today, on the other side of it. And I believe now, I believe in hope, I believe these things are possible, I believe in miracles, big and small, because they have happened for me. Because I remember how dark it was for me, and how bad my bad moments were when I was ill, how dark those times were when I was in that bad place then, and how hard I worked for this happiness that I have today.
And you’ll have to work hard for your own happiness, with your illness, wherever you are with it. Whether or not you are at a place of acceptance with your illness, or whether you have a sense of happiness already with your illness and are at peace with it, maybe you already know that happiness is an inside job. And it is. I have found that happiness, is an inside job. It is something that you will have to work for. And you’ll have to work hard for it. Just like you’ll have to work hard for your recovery. It takes time. You’ll have to work hard and push and advocate with doctors, and the medications will take time to work. But you’ll get there in the end.
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