Losses

I find myself thinking this evening about all of the multiple, enduring losses that accompany having a chronic illness. When symptoms are severe enough to disrupt employment on a regular basis, there is often a loss of career. Depending upon the degree of importance that working has had in one’s life, this can induce a profound loss of personal identity, as well as self-esteem. Unemployment, of course, is accompanied by lost earnings, and reduced security about one’s eventual retirement. When you are no longer able to work, there are also decreased opportunities for socialization with fellow employees. Loss of income is not infrequently accompanied by increased anxiety about being able to simply meet basic needs. Experiencing chronic symptoms produces social losses, too. One may simply not feel up to taking part in activities with friends and family members. Various sorts of relationships are strained, and sometimes end, in the context of addressing the myriad demands of chronic illness. One of the most significant losses that accompanies having a chronic illness is the profound loss of control: reduced control over symptoms, as well as their severity, in addition to reduced control over planning one’s schedule. I continue to mourn the loss of control over my own body’s abilities. At one point in time, I was very physically active, drastically thinner, and in great shape. I must admit that, the overwhelming majority of the time, I previously took for granted those very abilities that I now deeply cherish: being able to see, to walk, and to breathe. Chronic illnesses have taken away all of these basic abilities, more than once, over a period of several decades. I continue to mourn the specific way that I thought my life would be at this point in time, including physically, socially, and financially. However, I don’t allow myself to continue to dwell on such images. I instead actively choose to focus on my remaining abilities. It is so very important to remember that such enduring losses have also been accompanied by multiple blessings: I’ve cut to the chases of what truly matters, I no longer sweat the small stuff, I’ve developed deep friendships with others who are similarly challenged, and I’ve been permitted the opportunity to re-discover my artistic interests and abilities.

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