“What does the word courage mean to you?”
A question my friend recently asked me on our coffee date… and the question really got me thinking over the past couple of weeks.
I took some time to meditate on what courage means for me and how it affects my own life. Doing this, I had to ask myself some questions. Because courage can have different meanings for different people, it’s all about how you perceive courage in your own life and where you draw your courage from.
To me personally, having courage means overcoming extraordinary challenges. It means not giving up, regardless the obstacles, to persevere through the challenges of life. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Having hope in the darkness. Pushing through your fears, being brave and taking one step or day at a time. Living a meaningful life amidst tough circumstances.
To be very honest, writing this and sharing my story is actually requires a lot of courage – because this means being open, real and vulnerable (and on top of that, I am not writer!).
I didn’t want to be seen as a sick person
So, let me start … I didn’t want to be seen as a sick person. I realised that I could use my voice to give hope to others, but I was scared to never be able to get away from people knowing I had a chronic illness.
And so, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia – a chronic illness that consist of widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, migraines, memory issues. Basically, feeling like I was hit by a train every morning!
It feels like yesterday my Mom and I, sat in the doctor’s room waiting for the results, and finally getting some answers after a year filled with uncertainty, countless appointments, and tests.
There is no cure for it yet and the doctors say you will just have to learn to live with it for the rest of your life.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for it yet and the doctors say you will just have to learn to live with it for the rest of your life. When I heard this, so many questions went through my head at that time – ‘Do I have to give up my dreams now?’ and ‘What will my quality of life look like?’
The challenge of living with a chronic illness isn’t always apparent when you are first diagnosed. This is just the beginning. It takes time to understand your illness, the treatment options available and being committed to following a good treatment plan to improve your health and well-being. For example; trying a healthy diet, exercise, supplements, enough sleep, massages, physiotherapy, dry needling etc and whether it will affect your life and help relieve your pain or not.
Let’s be honest, there are a few challenges I have to face… I can feel lonely at times. I can look 100% fine to everyone else, but behind the façade have excruciating pain over my whole body (muscles & joints). It feels like I am on fire from the inside. Some days it can be hard to get up, to get ready for work and face the day, especially when I feel like I still need to sleep for a few more hours & can barely move because my muscles are aching and sore. Finding a good balance is very challenging, between looking after my body and health, feeling the pressure of meeting the expectations of others, and managing a very demanding life. This includes, a job that requires a lot of hard hours and brain power, building church, making a difference, building relationships, making time for friends, family, and of course being a good wife to my very awesome, and supportive husband (did I mention, all of this has to be done with a smile and a happy heart?!).
I must remind myself every day that I am not a victim.
I made a choice back then and must remind myself every day that I am not a victim. I am not going to feel sorry for myself and let this get the better of me. I am stronger than I think and I can overcome anything.
My faith has been my biggest strength and i believe with God by my side i can keep going and I am not going to let this stop me from walking in the plan God has for me. I am not going to take my pain out on other people. I am not defined by a diagnosis that was spoken over me. I choose a positive attitude and the belief that i am loved.
So, 14 years later, this is what I have learned on my journey so far …
- You are not the only one going through something. Everyone has their own struggle and burdens that they are carrying. There are many things in life we can’t control, but we can control our thoughts, attitude, and we have the ability to change our perspective.
- Don’t get overwhelmed, take one day at a time.
- Choose Joy – it’s a direct reflection of your gratitude. Stay in a posture of thankfulness, find something every day to be grateful for.
- Have the courage to say no, stop trying to please everyone, and remember for every yes you are saying no to something else.
- Have the courage to ask for help if you need it. Learn to listen to your body, look after it, and be kind to yourself – don’t push yourself too far. Don’t isolate yourself, instead surround yourself with friends and family. They are a gift, especially when they support you unconditionally, and are there for you always.
Be real, authentic & vulnerable, you don’t always have to pretend everything is fine. Don’t let your emotions numb you. Be fully in touch with your heart, and embrace it without losing hope. It’s okay to have an “off” day, to feel hurt, angry, and grieve if you’re disappointed, but DON’T stay there. Do not lose hope. Don’t just except your current condition as your ‘new norm’, continue to believe for breakthrough every day as if it’s the first. Find hope in your disappointment & for me i still believe it can change.
No one knows the journey more than you, the challenges you’ve met, and the wins you’ve achieved. Acknowledge and embrace them. And finally, celebrate your courage!