I was raised to believe that if there is a will, there is a way. This outlook enabled me to support myself through college, to accept a job working in high tech, about which I knew nothing, to advocate for my older daughter’s medical needs when she was a baby (while having a managed care medical plan that was paid for NOT treating her), and to start and run my own business despite not having a clue what I was doing. I’ve always been a bit stubborn, a bit strong-willed, and this outlook defined my life. For me, I had the will, and therefore the way to accomplish what I needed to do.
But as far as my body is concerned, where there is a will no longer means there is a way. I have an invisible illness, and that illness is pain. Since being rear-ended on a California freeway in August, 2015, my body has surrendered itself to pain. Pain that can sometimes be a minor inconvenience and slight distraction but is more often debilitating enough to affect every aspect of my life. Pain that makes it impossible to organize the large spaces in which I love to work, pain that makes it intolerable to sit for more than an hour or two, pain that makes it difficult to lift more than a few pounds, pain that makes it impossible to focus even when doing the organizing work I love.
What to do when your body just can’t? How to live the life you’ve fashioned for yourself while still caring for your body in its new normal? These are the questions with which those of us facing traumatic illness or injury contend. The challenge of finding a ‘new normal’ while being true to ourselves and our work, the challenge of taking care of clients, of collaborating with colleagues, of being there for family and friends, all while ensuring that we take care of our own needs. The challenge of facing down our will, which tells us that we can do the things we’re used to doing, even if they cause pain.
What strategies do you use to live the life you’ve fashioned for yourself in the face of pain or another illness or injury? We’d love to hear from you.