Most people who struggle with chronic illness have also had to face an existential crisis. Most don’t call it this or realize that there is a name for it, but most of us share this experience as we move through our journey of grief. We have to face the world as it is: brutal, raw and unfair. What meaning and purpose can there possibly be in a universe that slays children with leukemia and slowly crushes you beneath the EDS heel?
But here’s the secret: There is no meaning.
There never was.
While this at first glance seems like a terrible and dark truth, I assure you that it is your liberation. Because there is no meaning or great purpose, you have no standard to live up to. There is no ideal you. There is just the you that is. There is no external force that is dictating the rules. That means you can write your own.
How does this work?
When we get a diagnosis of chronic illness, we are told that there is no cure. What ever you’re dealing with, yeah that’s forever and it’s going to get worse. Everything that you imagined your life was going to be, isn’t going to happen that way.
Start by mourning that self, that dream that life you are never going to have. Then say good bye to that self and that life. Embrace the you that you are and start writing your life rules surrounding that person.
If you can no longer run, don’t make happiness about running. Find another purpose. Discover passion and curiosity. Paint, sing, write or just stand as your new standard for happiness. Grasp onto each moment of life and experience it with full ferocity. Don’t let go. Feel everything this life has to offer. Enjoy the touch of the warm sheets against your skin and the flavor of the tea upon your tongue. Live fully in each moment you are given.
You are the only person who can give meaning to your life and you are the only person who can take that meaning away. Live passionately and sincerely. Be your authentic self. Dig deep and discover what that means. Only you can answer this question.
But because you are the one that makes the meaning in your life, your chronic illness cannot take it away. Write your narrative with intention rather then just letting it happen. Please, don’t write yourself into the role of the despairing victim. Choose a purpose that brings you joy. Give your life the meaning that allows you to look at yourself with pride.