The following is a collection of inspiring stories about coping, self-care, staying positive, finding meaning, staying determined through hardship, acting despite fear, growth mindset, and social support.
A word of caution: Some of these stories are hard to read. Some are graphic. Reader discretion is advised.
Compiled and Published by Bodhi Band
They were not wrong, Wisconsin is all that. I even like the winter, and if I were to move to another state I would deeply miss my Wisconsin, with its winters and its colors!
I imagine my story with English is the same story for many others. I came here without knowing how to speak a single word. Saying “hello” was so hard. What pushed me to learn English was my family. When I arrived my son was one and a half. He had a speech impediment, and he wouldn’t say a word, no mom, nor water, nor food. Nothing. When he was three I started looking for help. I found some resources but everything was in English. I couldn’t understand the therapists, and I couldn’t help him at home. So I told myself “I need to learn English so I can be part of my children’s growth!”
One of my children’s schools offered English classes. The first one I took was so slow. You’re barely learning the basics, and the pronunciation is so, so difficult. It’s then when frustration starts settling and you start thinking how much time and effort it will take. You get frustrated, you walk away, and you say “I can’t do it.” So I stopped going. In a second attempt I went to Mid-State College, in Wisconsin Rapids, and I stayed there for six months, going everyday. That’s when things started. It’s hard, because you have to do it everyday, continuously. I had to work, attend my children, go to school, and had all the responsibilities that come from being a single mom. But I was also aware that I was limiting my children’s education by not learning the language. They couldn’t participate in sports or extracurricular activities because their mom couldn’t register them, or couldn’t talk to the basketball coach.
One day I found a Portage County Literacy Council ad. I called and Kristy answered. She never left me alone! That was two years ago. Since then I haven’t missed a class. It’s so gratifying to be able to watch a movie with my children and understand it all! Sitting through a parent-teacher conference was such a special moment for me. I felt so proud, and I told myself “Yes, I can do it!”
When the pandemic hit many of my classmates stopped taking classes. I was determined to continue. My tutor and I found a way. We started using technology so not to lose a single class. It has been challenging, you have to overcome all barriers. Sometimes there are distractions with my kids, sometimes the connection is not the best. I don’t have the most advanced computer. But we have found solutions. We tried with different devices. Sometimes I’ll get in my car and close all the windows so I won’t have any distractions. We’ve kept it going from March until now.
I think the pandemic showed how strong we are, how adaptable to change we can be. I’ve become such a resilient person. Coming to this country, learning a new language, seeing my kid grow up with special needs, raising a family. These difficult things helped me learn to say “I have to do it, I have no choice.” It’s the same with the pandemic. We have to find the options to live a better life.
I won’t give up until my goals are met. I want to be fluent in English. I want to get my GED. I want to keep growing as a person. That’s my future. And I wouldn’t have been able to think much about my future if it wasn’t for learning English. I want to help my community. I want to be an interpreter in the future, and help everyone I can, so they can help their own families. I’m sure my children will think of me as a role model. “If she was able to do all of that for me, I can do it for my own children. Yes, I can do it!”
Lili Vera | Plover, WI
Originally published on lovewi.com in 2022
She rarely makes eye contact. Instead, she looks down at the ground. Because the ground is safer. Because unlike people, it expects nothing in return. The ground just accepts her for who she is.
As she sits at the bar next to me, she stares down at her vodka tonic, and then the ground, and then her vodka tonic. “Most people don’t get me,” she says. “They ask me questions like, ‘What’s your problem?’ or ‘Were you mistreated as a child?’ But I never respond. Because I don’t feel like explaining myself. And I don’t think they really care anyway.”
The music is getting loud and I can see that she needs to talk. I ask, “Want to get some fresh air?”
In the chilly night air, she tells me her story. As she speaks, her emotional gaze shifts from the ground, to my eyes, to the moonlit sky, to the ground, and back to my eyes again.
When she finishes, she says, “Well, now you know my story. You think I’m a freak, don’t you?”
“Place your right hand on your chest,” I tell her. She does. “Do you feel something?” I ask.
“Yeah, I feel my heartbeat.”
“Now, place both of your hands on your face and move them around slowly.” She does. “What do you feel now?” I ask.
“Well, I feel my eyes, my nose, my mouth . . . I feel my face.”
“That’s right,” I reply. “But unlike you, stories don’t have heartbeats, and they don’t have faces. Because stories are not alive . . . they’re not people. They’re just stories.”
She stares into my eyes for a long moment, smiles, and says, “Just stories we live through.”
“Yeah . . . and stories we learn from.”
Originally published in 1,000 Little Things Happy Successful Do Differently by Marc and Angel Chernoff.
An old Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said, “A battle is raging inside me…it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The old man looked at the children with a firm stare. “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee replied: “The one you feed.”
Originally published on utexas.edu, accessed 2022.
Sheryl is a very public figure in the business world as the Chief Operations Officer of Facebook and a former global VP for Google. She married Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey. Despite both of their demanding careers, they lived a pretty normal life with their two kids and were extremely happy together.
Then on vacation in Mexico, Dave unexpectedly passed away. It was so shocking, so devastating, and Sheryl had no idea how to cope. She had a new reality as a widow, with two young kids, trying to grieve while still running a global company. Sometimes, it was so overwhelming that she couldn’t leave her bed.
But in talking with her friend, he advised her to activate her resilience. He taught her to acknowledge that Option A – the life with her husband – wasn’t available to pursue any more. But she could adjust, and start moving down the path of Option B and see what this path had to offer her.
That phrase “Option B” stuck in her mind. Sheryl decided to view her experience as an experiment to practice resilience strategies and write a book about what she learned.
She learned about resilience by collaborating with others who have faced a variety of challenges. She gathered stories from incarcerated inmates, mothers who’ve lost children, abuse survivors, recovering addicts, and more. She compiled them, along with her own story, in a book she fittingly titled “Option B: Build Resilience in the Face of Adversity”. (See some of the inspiring stories Sheryl collected at her website here: https://optionb.org/stories)
Speaking with others about their stories helped her to heal. She felt connected to their struggles, and it gave meaning to hers. No one is immune from adversity, but facing it definitely can make us feel alone. Sharing her story and hearing others’ stories helped her to not feel alone.
From Sheryl’s story we learn another practice for resilience: learn from stories of overcoming adversity. Seeking out inspirational stories (like this blog post) or by asking for stories from people you trust can help you realize you are surrounded by support. We all feel stronger with someone we trust by our side.
Originally published on blog.emihealth.com, Accessed 2022
Two months shy of my 25th birthday, my dad passed away. It is impossible to sum up in writing the emotions I felt. There have been happy moments, bittersweet moments, and moments of utter, crushing sadness.
Over time, though, the number of happy moments increased. I found that my loss made me appreciate the 24 years I was privileged to spend with my dad. I’m thankful for our positive relationship, for the forewarning I had before his passing, and for my ability to continue living out his values now. I’m also grateful that my dad regularly told me he was proud of me. And I am proud to have had such a great man as my dad.
Last year was my first Father's Day without him. I spent it with a best friend who understood the pain I was going through. I could talk to this friend about grief and bittersweet memories if I wanted, but I could also talk about pop culture, work, life, memes, and other things that had nothing to do with my dad. I was in a safe space to cry and laugh—whichever I needed.
It means a lot to have friends who simply show up—who just check in, and are there. I want people to understand that however I react to Father’s Day—whether I celebrate or am just “broken” for the day—is okay. Last year, friends texted me on Father's Day to see how I was doing. Even if it was a mundane “Hey, how's it going,” it reminded me that I have options and that how I'm feeling is not anyone's burden. People want me to share my bumpy ride of grief with them, and I'm thankful for that love in my life.
This year, I have a little more energy and focus than I did last year. I plan to honor my dad by talking more about the love he showed me, and the selflessness he showed to others. I want to celebrate him and talk about him in ways that he was too humble to do himself. He was truly a one-of-a-kind person. I want to use my reflections about him to help give others the understanding that time with your parents isn't guaranteed—you have to make the most of that time while you have it.
First published on optionb.com in 2018.
Zangre was told that soccer was a boy’s sport. Her father didn’t want her to play. What would have happened if she had listened? What would have happened if she didn’t have her brother and Compassion staff to encourage her to be brave and use her gifts? She certainly wouldn’t have been selected to play in the World Cup Qualifiers on the Burkina Faso women’s national football team.
Here's Zangre’s story in her own words…
I love football. It’s the first game I ever played. I really enjoy it, and playing allows me to express myself. When I see the crowd, I can show my talent, and prove that a girl can play just as well as a boy.
My older brother has always played football. He taught me how to play before I started school. When I started school, I played with friends there.
Zangre’s Brother, Kim:
It is uncommon to see a woman playing football, because in the culture, many people think that women should be working in the household with their mother.
People say that the place for a woman is in the home. My father thought I shouldn’t be doing things like playing football. That’s a boy’s thing to do. He thought that it wasn’t good that I play too much football because it could give me ideas of not behaving like a girl should.
[The Compassion organization] has done a lot for me by providing me with an education and an opportunity to learn football. They encouraged me to play. When I didn’t have any shoes or shorts, they gave me some.
One day a scout came and saw me play. He called me over and said that I played well. He said he wanted to start a club and asked if I wanted to join. My parents didn’t like this, but my brother was very supportive. He came to all my matches. He told me to continue.
In 2012, Zangre was selected to play in the women’s world cup qualifiers.
Zangre’s father, like any other father, it was hard for him at the beginning to see his daughter playing football. After the game with the national team and when Zangre came back from the trip in Algeria, that was a turning point. That changed his mind.
My dad is very happy with me now. He comes to see my matches. I think he is very proud of me.
First published on compassion.com in 2020.
John and his friends used to go mountain climbing once every year. One year, they decided to climb mountains in the Swiss Alps.
They reached the famous mountain spot in the Swiss Alps and were surprised to see a lot of people. Nonetheless, John and his friends started up the mountain. In no time, they reached the top of the hill. They decided to camp there.
Then John saw another mountain, one where only a handful of people were trying to climb. He told his friends, “Instead of camping here, let’s go climb that one. It’ll be fun and challenging.”
A friend replied, “No way, I’ve heard people talking about that mountain. It’s too difficult to climb. Only a few people can do it.”
Some people nearby overheard the conversation and said, “If it was easy to climb, why we were sitting idle here?” John took that as a challenge and went alone toward the peak.
Two hours later, he reached the top of the hill. People who were already there welcomed John with a round of applause.
John was thrilled. There were the most magnificent, beautiful views from the top.
He started a conversation with people, “While climbing this peak, I felt it was not so difficult. Why then are there only a handful of people here? If people can climb the lower peak, they can climb here too, if they were just to put in a little effort.”
A veteran climber replied, “Most people in the crowd are happy with what they find easy. They never think that they have the potential to achieve more. Even people who are not happy on just the first peak don’t want to take any risk. They think if they take risks, they will lose what they already have. But to reach a new peak, we need to put in effort. Many of them don’t show any courage, and they remain part of the crowd their whole life, and they complain about the handful of courageous people and call them lucky.”
First published on winnersstory.com in 2022, modified for this book.
“Papa, what will happen to us if you do not earn any money?” It was mid-March when public life came to a standstill with the Covid 19-outbreak, and virtually all my coaching and consulting projects and opportunities were cancelled or postponed. And it was particularly this question of my son Luka (11) which put me into an emotional turmoil and a bit of panic. Sure, it was about the money, but my fears and worries were also about my professional future overall, my role (and identity) as main breadwinner of the family, and, of course, the grim consequences for society and economy.
As a coach, I do know lots of tools and tricks which should help dealing with a situation like this. However, the initial questions which came to my mind were full of worries: What if this went on for months or even years? What if the partner firms I work for had to cancel their contracts with me? We are accumulating a substantial financial loss every month as a family – how long will our savings last to compensate for this? Will I be able to generate new clients in an even more competitive and growingly virtual business context? I was stuck low on the mood elevator and in a mentality of fear. I did not manage to get access to my beautiful "tools", as much as I tried rationally.
What really helped me, as a coach and human being in crisis, were the deep and inspiring conversations I had with many friends, freelance colleagues and with my teammates within Heidrick Consulting. Being able to talk about my uncertainties, sharing my anxieties, listening to those of others – the empathy and solidarity of those conversations eventually brought me back on track. And suddenly a whole set of different questions came into my mind which were previously hidden: What am I grateful for in life? What benefits could I find in this situation of crisis where I suddenly had much more time and less stress than in my “normal” life? What more can I do to make the best of a “gravity” situation which I am not able to influence or control? Which areas in life and business should I now focus on?
With my deeper dive into these questions, I have since discovered many new perspectives and ideas. With waves of energy coming back to me, I have started putting some of the ideas into practice. Because of those first little successes, even more energy evolved. My perception of life is now substantially different although it is still the same life. My new “projects” are about doing some research, writing some articles, transforming coaching and consulting tools into virtual offerings, becoming an expert in Zoom and other digital collaboration tools, and networking with colleagues and clients. In my personal life, I have started to use the time and energy I have won for more playing and hanging out with the kids, coordinating homeschooling, taking over more tasks at home (with my wife being more involved in her job than before), doing some community work in our neighborhood, sorting out our garden, cleaning up and renovating our house, extensive 1:1 walks and distance calls with friends. It is again a remarkably busy and enjoyable life - and I am deeply grateful for having gone through that re-framing and change of mindset. I have also found a fitting name for this new phase of my life – I am on sabbatical… I could not have re-discovered my growth mindset without the care, support and empathy of many great friends and colleagues. Thank you!
By Axel Kersten, originally published on LinkedIn in 2020.
I should have died when a red pickup truck T-boned me broadside. Luckily, my limp 105-pound body was launched across a busy intersection. I say “lucky” because the bike I was riding had become tangled beneath the truck’s chassis and was dragged for three miles.
When my 21-year-old body left Earth, the event was happening in slow motion. Mid-air, I could have sworn a giant hand caught me like a fly ball in a kidskin glove. I genuinely believe that an act of God, “the hand,” cushioned my fall. That’s how catechism colors you.
I landed on the hot pavement and skipped like a river stone to the other side of the street. Implausible but true, a paramedic truck was parked nearby. Everything after that was hazy.
I woke up in a hospital emergency room, surrounded by the scuttle of doctors and nurses. One nurse was scrubbing the right side of my face with an abrasive pad. I didn’t feel pain—but I will never forget the smell of baby shampoo.
This woman’s job was to clean the “road rash” (aka the pavement particles) still embedded in my face. I suffered a severe head injury. I had broken bones, shattered molars, and my skin was shredded.
Piecing it all back together, I had the green walk signal—yet the entire incident was my fault. I was totally distracted by my ambitions. To graduate in 3 1/2 years (with a degree in journalism), I orchestrated a one-semester jump on my classmates.
Obtaining that early diploma meant stacking my classes practically on top of one another. I bought a badass bike to cut down on my time between classes. Feeling fast and furious, I crossed a familiar intersection (without looking right or left) focused on arriving at the Clark Building ten minutes early for my finals.
I would have made it except for… smack! The truck. If I had not been so distracted over saving a few ticks by riding my bike to class, I could have forgone my young life’s most frightening hospital visit.
I was able to recover, get back to work and graduate early. I covered the scars on my forehead with my bangs. I nailed down an on-air television job soon after graduation. I was wrong about time being my enemy. Time was what healed my wounds.
Time became my best friend who taught me perspective. I am still busy and ambitious, but I can now recognize when the distraction beast is taunting me. Still, every time I look in the mirror, pull my bangs aside and see the scars, I’m reminded that my worst distraction was me. I nearly got myself killed.
I’m more aware of other motorists now. I actually wrangle with passengers to let me do the driving. Beyond that, I am focused on a thousand potential threats when I’m with my daughters. You know, like kidnappers hiding under cars, driving alone at night, and not engaging with aggressive road rage drivers.
While this might sound a little paranoid to you, the near-death lesson I carry with me to this day is, “Allison, look around. Ignoring danger will add more risk and erase joy.”
By Allison Dalvit, originally published on upjourney.com.
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
First published on marcandangel.com in 2013.
Once upon a time there was a woman who had been lost in the desert for three whole days without water. Just as she was about to collapse, she saw what appeared to be a lake just a few hundred yards in front of her. “Could it be? Or is it just a mirage?” she thought to herself.
With the last bit of strength she could muster, she staggered toward the lake and quickly learned that her prayers had been answered: it was no mirage—it was indeed a large, spring-fed lake full of fresh water—more fresh water than she could ever drink in her lifetime. Yet while she was literally dying of thirst, she couldn’t bring herself to drink the water. She simply stood by the water’s edge and stared down at it.
There was a passerby riding on a camel from a nearby desert town who was watching the woman’s bizarre behavior. He got off his camel, walked up to the thirsty woman and asked, “Why don’t you have a drink, ma’am?”
She looked up at the man with an exhausted, distraught expression across her face and tears welling up in her eyes. “I am dying of thirst,” she said, “But there is way too much water here in this lake to drink. No matter what I do, I can’t possibly finish it all.”
The passerby smiled, bent down, scooped some water up with his hands, lifted it to the woman’s mouth and said, “Ma’am, your opportunity right now, and as you move forward throughout the rest of your life, is to understand that you don’t have to drink the whole lake to quench your thirst. You can simply take one sip. Just one small sip… and then another if you choose. Focus only on the mouthful in front of you, and all your anxiety, fear and overwhelm about the rest will gradually fade.”
First published on purposefocuscommitment.com.
It has been suggested that people who are diagnosed with a long term illness may go through the stages of grief that are commonly quoted in connection with the death of a loved one.
For some people the diagnosis of a long term illness will be a relief. You may have had weeks, months or even years of symptoms that now slot into place. It’s good to know why things have been happening; an understanding can bring with it a sense of calm. On the other hand it can also bring a sense of panic and raise a myriad of questions.
Others may have a very quick diagnosis, and although it can be good to know what you are dealing with it does not give time to come to terms with what may be wrong.
It really doesn’t matter how or when you found out about your chronic illness, there will be many emotions that you may experience.
Emotions are Similar to Those of Grief
Emotions arise such as denial – not necessarily about the actual diagnosis but not wanting to find out any more about the condition, anger – why me and why now?, sadness or disappointment– grieving for the loss of the old “you” along with worries about the path your life will now take.
It is perfectly normal and understandable to have these feelings. It is important to realize that the diagnosis of a long term illness is not the end and eventually you will come to terms with it, you’ll start piecing your life back together again and move on.
Someone said to me: “Everything’s going to be OK but only when your definition of OK has been redefined”
Here, I will tell my story and how I dealt with my diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
I was never the most athletic of children; I hated P.E. and found any way I could to avoid taking part. I suppose I always thought of myself as clumsy and not very good at the usual childhood skipping and ball games. As I grew up it became easier to avoid situations where the clumsiness would be highlighted.
However, in 1997 at the age of 31 I began a four year course to train as a Primary Teacher. We had to cover all areas of the curriculum and this time I couldn’t make excuses to avoid P.E! All the old fears came back, I felt awkward and incapable. I remember in one practical lesson we had to walk along the narrow upturned edge of four benches placed in a square. Most of my peers could get right round; but not me! This is my first memory of my balance not being the same as other people.
I qualified in the summer of 2001 and got a job to start in the September. I was asked to do some supply work before the children broke up for the summer holidays. This seemed like a good way to become familiar with the school; unfortunately it wasn’t! I fell at the school and broke both my legs and didn’t return to the school until January 2002. I still don’t know whether others in the same situation would have fallen too or if it was because of my poor balance.
Symptoms of MS
The next ten years passed without any serious medical concerns. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and also had bladder problems but nothing that couldn’t be handled. I now know that these were symptoms of MS.
Any difficulties I had with my legs I blamed on weaknesses due to my fall. I couldn’t walk in a straight line but this somehow didn’t seem important. Thinking back I can recall many times that I wobbled from one side of the school corridor to the other and the same used to happen at home. I used to trip over invisible objects but just assumed this was my usual clumsiness. I couldn’t stand still with my eyes closed. I also remember feeling exhausted after going up several flights of stairs, my legs felt unbelievably wobbly but I just put this down to being unfit.
In April 2011 I began to have walking problems; I couldn’t go as far as I normally did, my leg was like concrete and I felt as if I was dragging it around. During a routine appointment with my GP I mentioned my walking, he didn’t think it was particularly significant until I also told him I couldn’t walk in a straight line. He decided that I should have an MRI of my head to be on the safe side.
Over the next week or so my walking deteriorated further and my problems became visible to others. I suppose this was the time I became frightened about what was wrong with me. The internet is a wonderful source of information but it can cause nightmares too. I was warned by many people not to do much searching of symptoms on the internet but it is very tempting when you’re concerned about your health. It was by doing this that I came across the MS Society website and I became convinced this was what was wrong with me as I had about 80% of the symptoms.
Chronic Illness and Fear of the Unknown
I remember a mixture of emotions: fear, impatience and a naïve determination that the sooner I found out what was wrong with me the sooner it could be put right. This manifested itself through tears, arguments and stubbornness. I had my share of what we called my “it’s not fair days” where I spent many an hour crying, questioning and worrying about the future.
I had an emergency appointment with a neurologist who asked many questions and conducted a wide variety of tests. I remember looking round the waiting room and seeing people of varying disability and wondering if it was an insight into my future.
The Diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
Over the next 3 months I had many blood tests, an MRI of brain and spine and also a lumbar puncture in order to help with the diagnosis. When I had the first MRI scan and had been slid into the machine the seriousness of the situation swept over me and a single tear was shed in the privacy of the contraption.
At the end of September 2011, five months after the symptoms had become obvious I received the diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. It was what I expected but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to accept. Currently there is no cure and for this particular variant of multiple sclerosis and there is no treatment which may slow the progression of the disease. I take medication to relieve some of the symptoms but this is not always successful.
Coping with Chronic Illness after the Diagnosis
Shortly after diagnosis I attempted to go back to work. My own GP and work’s Occupational Health doctor were surprised that I wanted to try but I felt I had to do just that. If I hadn’t tried I would never have known, I would have always wondered if it was possible. It was a job I loved but I needed to try to return in order to accept that I could no longer fulfill the role. It was a difficult process but I feel it was essential for me.
Coming to Terms with Your New Life with Chronic Illness
What now? We have got used to taking life at a slower pace; we haven’t had a choice. We have accepted that I will never be better than I am today and there is no way of telling how quick or severe the progression will be. We know that it is possible that I will be a full time wheelchair user at some point; however long or short that may be. There is no certainty of this but I find it easier to assume that I will, rather than denying that it will happen. We’re determined to make memories and “seize the day”. I urge you all to do the same as you honestly don’t know what’s round the corner.
MS is often described as a MonSter and yes, it is a harsh and merciless disease that can rob you of your privacy and dignity but I don’t intend to be a sufferer. Various people have said how brave and upbeat I’m being but believe me that’s not every day! Just because I sound good doesn’t mean I feel good. What do you gain from being sad? Sometimes I have to make myself be happy. It doesn’t mean I’m not in pain or extremely tired. It doesn’t mean I am getting better or any of those things. It is exhausting and I am doing my best to cope with this. I will live my life to the best of my ability. But it is a new life, an unknown and uncertain life, one I am still adjusting to. It is not the life I had planned!
I can be stubborn at times and can find it difficult to ask for help. I am getting a bit better and I’m learning to see aids and adaptations as enablers rather than seeing them as a spotlight on my disability. For instance, I’ve purchased a mobility scooter which gives me some independence in the local neighborhood. I’ve named it Speedy! The dog is learning to walk alongside it, although she’s puffed out by the time we get home! I also use a wheelchair for shopping trips or days out. Initially I wasn’t happy about this but then I realized I would enjoy the experience more if I did use my chair.
Friends and family are of course of great importance, and I don’t think I would be so positive if I didn’t have their tremendous support. One of my friends reminded me of a quote from Mother Teresa who said we’re not given anything we can’t handle – that’s something I remind myself of each day. Friends from work have kept regular contact by texts, emails, phone calls, visits, meals out and delivery of home-made goodies! In a situation like mine you certainly find who your true friends are!
I have found it important to find out everything I can about the disease, it helps me understand what is happening to me. I have found the internet extremely useful although I don’t believe everything I read. Online support in the guise of forums can be invaluable as you can pose questions anonymously to people who are in the same situation as yourself and may have years more experience of what you are currently struggling with. It is vital to remember however that the advice given from forums should not replace the medical advice that you are personally given.
Activities, Exercise and Socializing Help to Cope with Chronic Illness
One problem I had was finding activities to fill the days which had been full of work. Most of my friends worked so I have had to find a new social circle. This, I found quite daunting as I’m a quiet person.
Local Support Groups are important although it may take time to find the best one suited to you. I tried three different groups before I found one that I was comfortable with.
You may find it difficult to find the right sort of exercise class. I go to my local sports center for a session which is run by an instructor who is supervised by physiotherapists from the hospital. This means the exercises are tailored to the individual. I enjoy my weekly class for the social side as well as for the exercise. It is so important to keep as fit as you can in order that your body responds well to treatments and your condition.
Coping with Chronic Illness Doesn't Change who you are. I don’t believe that everything you attend should relate to your long term illness; it’s good to have contact with others too. After all, you are still exactly the same person you were before being diagnosed.
A virtual “friend” recently posted this about coping with chronic illness on the forum that I visit most regularly:
"Life starts to take shape again, you get your bearings again, the fears for the future don't dominate in the same way, the here-and-now starts to reassert itself (in a good way), it becomes easier to enjoy the good things wholeheartedly again, those blessed moments of happiness and ordinariness stop being so few and far between. Life goes on. It might look a bit different, and that takes some adjusting to, but a person can make a good life for herself with MS (or any other long term chronic illness), and the people she loves can too. Just hang on in there."
First published on griefandsympathy.com, retrieved in 2022.