Learning to let go... Living with ME
When you are living with ME/CFS, learning to let go can be really difficult. Over the years I have met lots of people who have lived with chronic illness such as ME/CFS. Often, they had led busy & active lives prior to the onset of ME/CFS and were in great health overall. This is my story as well. Other than the odd cold I was a pretty healthy person.
Over the years I have developed my own way of managing my health. I don’t always get it right, but I learn and adapt as I face each challenge. I continue to have times where it is too overwhelming to function, and I have accepted that my new life is my new normal.
With my health, I continue to try to improve and to regain strength. So when I am faced with a decision where I have to make a choice that I do not want to – it is really tough.
Learning to adapt
When you develop conditions like ME/CFS you soon learn that you simply cannot do all of things that you once were able to, and you are often unable to do many of the things that you would like to do.
At times like this, choosing to let go of something for the sole reason that you physically cannot do something that you had previously taken for granted, can become a huge battle between your head and your heart.
It can feel like a huge loss, and it can have such an impact upon your mental wellbeing. It can bring up a range of feelings, including anger / frustration / disappointment / guilt / shame and resentment.
I’ve spoken before about grieving for who I once was, and it’s times like these that it can get me down a little. It’s a little reminder that despite having hopes and dreams and ambitions like I previously did, I need to make sure that it is doable for me.
I was faced with one of these decisions this week, and it tapped straight into my ‘Be Strong’ personality. I can often feel like I have more to prove since developing ME/CFS. Although, where I would have previously ploughed on and tried to do everything now, I have learned to stop and focus on the most important thing that I need to get done, and put the other things on hold.
In my case, I quit my MA….
Well, I didn’t quit – I just paused for an academic year – but it felt like I was quitting. The battle between head & heart had been intense. It took a great deal of sensible head thinking to choose to take a break to give me the much-needed space to focus on other things.
Clarity from letting go…
The moment I knew I had made the right choice – when I let my head win the battle – the clarity was amazing. There is such truth when people say that once you are able to let go, you are able to focus on what you really need and want to do.
It will probably always be a difficult decision, and it always requires forgiveness of myself. Understanding and accepting that I may need to come at things at a slightly different angle to others, or that it may take a little longer than I would have liked, allows forgiveness.
There is a lot to be said for forgiveness of yourself. I know others have shared similar feelings when describing the impact that living with ME/CFS has had upon them. There is the associated grief, as well as learning to develop a tolerance of yourself and your body. Learning what measures you now need to take in order to regain some level of control over things.
Of course, it impacts everybody differently. I speak as someone who lives with moderate ME, which often fluctuates in severity. There will be others who may be able to do so much more than me. There will be others who would not be able to do nearly as much as I can. What is important is learning how to understand your own body; its capabilities and its limitations. Once you can accept the impact that your health has upon you, you can often learn to manage it a little better.
Since making this decision I have been able to focus my energy into another part of my life. It has been such a liberating process.
As my coach reminded me, I may not be able to do it all now, but there is enough time for me to do what I need – just not all at once.
Thanks for reading, be kind to yourself, and make the choice that helps you the most