The importance of staying present, in sickness and in life.
The blur of sickness, pain and discomfort is pretty powerful. I felt unconsciously alive for a pretty long time. That’s the only way I can explain it. I was living and breathing, but I wasn’t here – I wasn’t in my body. I was overpowered by illness.
When you’re sick, you naturally think about being better pretty constantly. You imagine what your improved health could look like. All I wanted was to be at the next stage, to feel some relief and feel human again. So all this wishing and hoping resulted in me pushing myself harder to meet this self-induced expectation. I did way too much brain retraining, I increased my medication sooner than I should have; I tried to do too much too fast. I got stuck in a wheel of dreaming and false hope.
I was adamant that the harder I fought to get better, the quicker it would happen. But that’s not actually the case with a vestibular disorder; in fact it’s the opposite. This over-eager ambition became a pretty damaging place to find myself circling.
I think a switch flipped in me when I realised I couldn’t focus so much and plan for the future right now, for my own sanity and wellbeing. As someone who was always so future-driven, specifically about studying and working towards my dream career, this was seriously hard though! I was used to looking to the next, what to set my sights on and achieve. But that mindset wasn’t going to serve me now. I needed to take each day as it came and follow the small steps outlined for right now in vestibular rehabilitation. I could only control my healing in the present, not the future.
It is so hard to put all your effort into something and not see any reward, or have an idea of when that reward will come. So patience and faith become a big part of how you tackle your life – especially when you’re sick.
Changing my focus to the present and abiding by the concept of “within reason” for my expectation of myself in life as it presents to me now gave me some peace. It took me longer than I would have liked to realise this. I had to learn to dedicate a manageable amount of vestibular physiotherapy and tasks to each week, to taking medications sensibly and to giving my brain the rest it needed in my short term. I needed to focus on the reality of my ‘now’. But then the short term inevitably built the future for me.
I think this outlook to stay present, be realistic and in tune with our health and wellbeing is helpful for us all to absorb, not just for those of us facing a chronic illness. Whether we are happy or sad, excited or fearful – we all tend to look toward that next stage. Hoping, praying, planning or something in between that feels natural to us. But sometimes that intense focus on the future blinds us to the present. The reality is, when you concentrate too much on what’s next and push yourself too hard to get there – you forget, miss or possibly stuff up what you are doing now. You don’t actually get to that future any faster, in fact your tunnel vision can often delay it and you end up finding yourself in a place you sat in the past and thought was behind you.
So whatever you are facing, find the right balance for yourself for right now. Stay in this moment and this day. Set small goals and focus on those. Don’t fall into a spiral of thinking too far into the future right at the beginning. If you’re patient and dedicated to what you’re facing right now, to what you need to tackle each day, you’ll find yourself in your future sooner than you think. You’ll find yourself somewhere you only thought could be a dream.
For those with vestibular disorder specifically or facing any chronic illness – remember to be realistic and kind to yourself. Dedicate certain minutes or hours of each day to activities to harness your rehabilitation and somewhat soothe what you are going through. When you receive your treatment plan or updates to it from your team of doctors, make sure you stick to it. If you don’t understand parts of what you are supposed to do or what certain things mean, ask your doctor while you have the chance. No question is silly. Knowledge is your greatest ally in illness. So find out as much as you can. Understand it for your present and implement it.
If you’ve found some solace in my words, click through to see my previous posts.
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