Fighting Chronic Lyme Disease can be daunting. I will admit to feeling weary and overburdened by the struggle on at least a few (okay maybe more like several) occasions. I try to be strong, but sometimes, tears are shed and I temporarily feel a sense of defeat.
A recent conversation with a friend challenged me to think of the opposite of defeat. Instead of allowing my thoughts to drift toward a place of darkness and pessimism, could I begin to cultivate an overcoming mindset in spite of my decade long journey with a chronic illness? Let me be completely honest with you. This battle has been nothing short of grueling for me and I have not always handled it so gracefully. At times, I need soul-grabbing inspiration to even force myself out of bed some mornings.
I began to flash back to several of the patients I had seen in my career as an Occupational Therapist. Some exhibited striking emotional and physical resilience, overcoming unimaginable obstacles. Regardless of the troubles that may have greatly distressed them, they were able to rise to the challenge of their circumstances over and over again. These unique people had a perception about life and adversity that enabled them to conquer weariness and repeatedly maintain a prevailing state of mind.
I believe there are lessons I can learn from these extraordinary individuals that have been placed in my life over the years. Rather than allowing myself to deviate toward the negative, I think it is possible for me to further develop an overcoming attitude as I walk through whatever situation lies before me by being mindful of the following 4 principles.
1. Rather than being lifted out of a situation or going around it, overcomers accept that they often must continue to walk through it.
I have noticed something about those I admire the most. They’re honest and realistic about the uncertainties that are before them. They know that not every journey will be easy. There may even be times when the question arises, “Why did this happen to me?” but they do not dwell in this place very long. They see an opportunity for personal growth in their difficulties and are willing to take that risk. A dear friend of mine, who has been battling an obscure illness, remarked to me, “I never knew there was such strength within me. I would not have known this had I not gone through this experience.” Is it possible that going through difficulty may in fact yield a positive change in me? I aim to remain open to this point of view.
2. They maintain the belief that there will be better days ahead.
During seasons of my chronic illness, I have felt confused and angry at the drastic changes that have occurred in my life. I am now learning that overcomers give themselves permission to redefine their identity in spite of the struggles they may be having. They see light in a direction where others may see darkness. As I absorb this idea into the very deepest part of me, I find myself thinking, “Although I am now different than I was before, I know that better days still await me.” It’s a relief to me to know that an alteration in my life doesn’t have to equate to the end of my future.
3. They focus on what they have, rather than what they are lacking, and ways they can share what they have with others.
I have spent countless amounts of energy recalling what I used to do or reminding myself of what I had in my pre-illness life. These comparisons generally lead to a sense of loss and frustration. In contrast, people with an overcoming mindset choose to focus on the positive aspects of their lives. By maintaining their attention on what they do have, they can often find new and creative ways to share their gifts and talents with the world. I find that as I begin to implement these principles, I am discovering more peace within my current situation and unique moments to share my story with others.
And now, the most important attribute of all.
4. They are committed to finishing their goals.
An overcomer sees obstacles in his or her life and chooses to persevere and press onward. Many of us can start something, a new project, a new business, the pursuit of better health, etc. However, not all of us have the ability to finish what we have started. Some of us lack endurance for the ups and downs of the journey and give up before our objectives have been attained. Call it cock-eyed optimism, foolishness or sheer faith, an overcomer can see even the slightest improvements as advancement and uses that momentum to continue in pursuit of the goals they have set for themselves.
Although we may find ourselves in unexpected situations at times, cultivating an overcoming mindset can make all the difference in our lives. It will allow us to discover hope, beauty and life even in the midst of our darkest days and celebrate the milestones during the better times. Instead of being defeated by the seemingly impossible nature of our circumstance, we can actually emerge strengthened, transformed and with the ability to celebrate the smallest victories.