A Matter Of Perspective: Changing How We Think About Our Chronic Illness https://reclaiminghope.blog

A Matter of Perspective: Changing The Way We Think About Our Chronic Illness

 

I have a dear friend whose grandson is exceptionally bright and observant. Whenever we see each other, I look forward to her “Colton Stories.” The last one went something like this: He started asking his grandparents if they drove on the grass. Whenever they told him no, he would say, “Mama drives on the grass.” Of course, his mom denied it, but they just could not convince him that she didn’t drive on the grass. It took them a while, but they finally figured how why he was so convinced that she did. From his vantage point in his car seat all he could see beside him was grass. He didn’t have sight of the road so he thought it wasn’t there.

My favorite part of the story came at the very end…. My friend was on the way to the mall with Colton and his mom and he pointed out some guardrails that were between their vehicle and the woods beyond. He said, “Ma” (that’s what he calls his grandma), “See those things over there? Those are to keep Mama from driving in the woods.”

How many times are we like that precious little boy, only seeing through the lens of our current circumstances? How many times do we think that this immediate pain is all there is? It can be hard to feel optimistic when we’re suffering, but sometimes we can choose to be optimistic by changing our perspective.

A Matter Of Perspective: Changing How We Think About Our Chronic Illness https://reclaiminghope.blogIt’s hard to make that shift sometimes, especially when things seem to be going wrong or  pain and/or fatigue are getting the best of us, but with some work we can change the way we look at things.

What are some things that can help us shift our perspective?

  • Realize that your illness is not who you are. After struggling for a year with the idea that my body had let me down and feeling that my fibromyalgia had become who I was, I realized I was looking at it in a way that was completely unhelpful. Chronic Illness is a huge challenge that affects every part of our lives, but our illnesses are not who we are.
  • Concentrate on what you can do rather than what you can’t. It’s easy to get bogged down in thinking about everything our illness keeps us from doing, but I’ve found that if I’m able to think about what I can do rather than what I can’t, and think of the things I can do today that I couldn’t six months ago, it helps me to realize I’m not “driving on the grass” but living my life. This helps make being optimistic about the future possible even when I’m not feeling that way.
  • Find small steps you can take toward feeling better. As I talked about in my post The ABC’s Of Remaining Optimistic When You Just Aren’t Feeling It, there’s something called dynamic optimism, which is based on action. Finding those small actions we can take to help us feel better can help us regain that sense of optimism for the future.
  • Seek out ways to help others. Helping someone else can often change our perspective more quickly than anything else. We often spend our time feeling guilty about all the things we’re no longer able to do, but there are still many things we can do, and helping others is one of them. This not only distracts us from our pain; it also gives us purpose.

Sometimes a small change in perspective can result in huge benefits to our overall wellbeing. We can’t change our circumstances, but changing the way we view them can allow us to enjoy life and learn to thrive in spite of them.

Have you found this to be true for you? What are some things that helped you when you needed a change of perspective? Please share!

Blessings,

Terri

29 comments

  1. I love the colton story! As far as changing my perspective, in addition to looking back where I have been and what I have been through, I find it helpful to focus on where I want to be next….I don’t make rigid plans though, I usually try to make 2 or 3 of them as options

    1. Thank you Grace! That’s a great point about focusing on where you want to be next. That gives us something to look forward to. Having plans A, B, and C is a great idea too. We definitely need options when we live with chronic illness. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much V.J.! I always love hearing “Colton stories.”😊 This one really did make me stop and think about the difference in how we perceive things and how they really are sometimes. One little change in perspective can make all the difference, can’t it?

  2. I couldn’t agree more, perspective can count for a heck of a lot. I posted a few times before about focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t, and with these changes in perspective can come a degree of empowerment. Brilliant post, Terri! xx

    1. Thank you so much Caz! I completely agree with what you said about the change in focusing on what we can do, not what we can’t empowering us. It certainly helps us concentrate our efforts in the areas we have control over and keeps us from “spinning our wheels” in areas we can’t control. Hope you’re feeling better. Hugs!

  3. Oh this post is wonderful! It is so true we have control over our perspective and it is up to us to either see the good or bad in every situation. I am working hard on having an attitude of grattitude and seeing what I do have rather than what I don’t, this post reinforced my decision to change my perspective thank you

    1. Thank you so much Beverley! I love the idea of having an attitude of gratitude – when we’re looking for what we’re grateful for we don’t have time to focus on the negatives. That doesn’t make them go away, but they don’t get more of our attention than they deserve…. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings to you!

  4. Such a lovely positive post! Will be referring to this on my bad days to remind myself it’s not all bad and it’s all about perspective xx

    1. Thank you so much Bethan! It’s easy to lose sight of the good things in our lives during our bad days, but they’re there even when we can’t see them. I’m so glad you found this helpful. Blessings to you!

  5. I love the Colton story. Except, sometimes for me it is the opposite. I see the long road ahead of me and wonder how far I can go on the little amount of gas that I have. I must remember that I don’t have total control of that steering wheel. Sometimes I have to not try. Actually get away from the road altogether and ride on the grass. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Wendylynn. You make a great point about seeing the long road ahead and wondering how far you can go. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re looking at the big picture. For me, I’ve found the best thing is to just break things down into small steps that I can take consistently. Once I’ve got one small thing mastered, I choose one more small step. And like you said, sometimes you just have to “ride on the grass.”😊 Thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Great reminders! I have always found that helping others is so helpful in reminding me how truly blessed I am. And I really like what you said about my chronic illnesses not being who I am. I need to remember that. Thank you

    1. Thank you so much! I find that when I’m busy helping others I’m able to forget how rotten I feel most of the time and just concentrate on what I need to do for the folks I’m helping. And yes, please never lose sight of the fact that you are so much more than your illness. Blessings to you!

  7. This is an excellent post. It’s very hard to stay optimistic on a daily basis with the pain, and it’s even worse when flaring (I don’t have fibromyalgia, but I struggle with rheumatoid disease), but it’s imperative to our mental health to try to stay positive and not let the disease win (I always picture it as a battle in my imagination–it can take my body, but it’s not going to take my mind). You give excellent points on switching the outlook. Take care, Dawn

    1. Thanks so much Dawn! I love that you picture the battle in your mind to help you stay positive and continue to fight. Thanks for stopping by. Wishing you continued safe and happy travels!

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