Fighting Chronic Illness With a Positive Mindset
The machine monitoring my vitals beeps annoyingly to alert the nurses that my blood pressure has dropped again. My limbs ache from the frigid air conditioning, and my body is sore from being held hostage in the hospital bed. Fear, loneliness, and pain begin to consume my thoughts once again, and my top lip begins to quiver.
Tears flood my eyes, and a warm rush of blood flushes my face. I suck in as much air as I can and slowly release it, trying to calm myself. “Don’t go there!” I silently urge myself.
Pessimistic thoughts make things worse
Being chronically ill, I have many reasons to complain. Things like crippling pain, disability, and repeatedly having to cancel plans are emotionally overwhelming. Therefore, I often find myself standing on the edge of a slippery slope. Pessimism likes to grab ahold of me, and when it does, it pulls me down to a very dark place.
Unfortunately, once I’m underneath all that negativity, it’s a struggle to get back up. And there’s no joy inside pessimistic thoughts.
Choosing to stay positive
While hospitalized, I had so many reasons to start bawling my eyes out and throwing childlike tantrums. But after I calmed my emotions with intentional deep breaths, I reminded myself that I would never get that day back. I repeated something I say often: “It can always be worse, so enjoy this moment.”
Luckily for the nurses, I didn’t throw my lunch tray across the room and scream. Instead, I surrendered to my situation and began looking for something to watch on the TV as a distraction. While skimming through the free movies, I recognized the title “Little Women.” Suddenly, I allowed myself to become excited about finally having the opportunity to watch an adaptation of one of my favorite books.
Until a cure for scleroderma is found, I have two choices. Option one is throwing myself angry pity parties. (I certainly have enough material to host one of those shindigs every day of the year.) Option two is finding the silver lining hidden among the destruction. For me, a life filled with optimism is a life worth living, so I’ll always strive for the latter.
Positivity leads to more positivity
A movie seems like such a minuscule thing compared with everything I was battling at that moment. Yet, it helped me step back from the ledge I was about to hurl myself over. The small joy I found hidden within a massive pile of gloom created more cheer through a ripple effect. It cleared my head so I could enjoy my video chat with my children. That tiny morsel of happiness also opened my heart so I could pray for the patient crying out in pain in the room next to me. My sense of hope was restored by finding one good thing to focus on.
Optimism helps me fight illness
Maintaining an optimistic mentality is one way I fight back against scleroderma. New, painful symptoms and disabilities manifest themselves regularly, and it makes me feel like I have a monster living inside me. I feel that demon trying to pull me down and destroy the life I’ve worked so hard to build. While I cannot stop the physical damage from happening, I do have the ability to overcome the mental destruction.
Searching for the positive aspects of chronic illness, despite all its negative effects, is a choice. And it is without a doubt the more difficult option. Laughing despite pain is a choice. Enjoying what my body can still do for me is a choice. It’s a continuous struggle, but I work hard to live a happy life by reminding myself to find the silver linings.
The other day, I was out of breath from walking across a field to where my daughter was playing soccer. For a moment, I was upset that my lungs are no longer thriving. But I fought back and overpowered that negativity by reminding myself how fortunate I was to be healthy enough to watch my child play. Back to reality — it can always be worse!
Look for the silver linings
A disease that destroys the body creates the perfect invitation for negative thoughts. It is possible (and worth it) to find the positives hidden under so much pain and suffering.
Challenge yourself to say something encouraging every morning when you wake up. At every meal, think of one thing you’re grateful for. Praise yourself for every little victory. It gets easier the more you practice focusing on the good.
We are given only one life to live, so for all those with chronic conditions, let’s make each day count by attacking our illness with an optimistic mindset.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.