Now I have met a few of you whose strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. For us, the most important coping skill we can learn is balance. Those of you who know me well are aware that I am terrible at finding healthy balances in my life. I end up in destructive cycles of pushing myself to the point of requiring recovery.
I still refuse to accept my current condition as permanent. This might be an awful attitude, but if I don’t stick to it, there will be trouble. I don’t want to adjust to the way things are now because I am extremely unhappy with these limits and I don’t see how my life is sustainable this way. I want to finish my schoolwork, get a job, earn financial independence, and build enough physical strength to explore the world around me.
I can’t do those things right now because willpower only goes so far. I’ve heard that I can do anything I put my mind to. I just have to want it bad enough. That, my friends, is bullshit. If I really wanted to go for a run today, or even a long walk, I would pass out on the sidewalk regardless of my state of mind. Today, making progress means trying to stay hydrated, nourished, and well-rested so I don’t end up in the hospital. I have to keep reminding myself that this does not mean I’m a useless bum. I am still not convinced, but I know if I try to do something “productive,” like working on schoolwork, I will make my eyes burn, give myself a headache, increase my heart rate, and cry for a while. I won’t remember what I read because I will work so hard to see the words, so I definitely won’t be able to make progress on those old research papers. I want to feel productive, but I know my health will suffer. The hardest thing I have ever done is admit that I can’t handle school. I’ve had to do it twice now.
I consider academic ambition one of my strengths. I have put so much effort into my education, and I thrive when I am learning about subjects I love. I want to put my intelligence to good use, especially considering my physical weakness. Academic ambition once sustained me more than I care to remember, so it contributed to a major personal downfall. The stress, shame, and feelings of complete worthlessness following my sudden inability to continue my college career have impacted my physical-well being.
My love for family and friends is certainly a good trait, but it comes with a price: I worry about being bad for people. I am a burden to those who love me, and I hate that. I don’t like being a bother, and lately I can’t seem to avoid it. I want to hear about how everyone else copes and moves forward, because I think it’s a common experience with chronic illness. We depend on others more than the parties involved might prefer, and illness brings tension to our relationships.
Stubbornness gets me in trouble, but it’s handy. It’s gotten me through some comically lousy days, but it’s also caused fights with my family. Sometimes I am an idiot. After a while, I learned to balance my stubbornness with my occasional need for urgent medical care. I used to tell people I was too busy to go get fluids at the ER, and it would have to wait a few days. Then I realized I was being stupid, and it’s better to get help and get back on my feet instead of delaying the inevitable. What a concept. Now I feel bad for making people nervous. Oops.
I am lucky enough to have a few friends and family members looking out for me and helping me balance my strengths and weaknesses. They love me enough to tell me when I need to get a grip and quit pushing myself so hard. As I write, I imagine a few buddies saying “Alyssa!” and glaring at me in that certain way they do when I am a dork. I don’t mean to sound like my dear friends just give me a hard time. They have spent a lot of time providing emotional support, learning about my health, and offering their clearer heads for endless brainstorming. One of the best things I think I can do is listen to my sweet buddies more often and seek out lessons from those of you who are experienced with healthy balance.
I don’t feel like writing about any more strengths or weaknesses today. I’m already nervous about what you’ll think of me for writing this post. This is for everyone who who understands the struggle refocusing ambitions and choosing new paths. Let’s talk sometime!