I recently received an email from someone asking how I stayed positive despite living with a chronic illness. I thought I'd share my response in case it helped others.
The truth is it's not easy. I do get down and really frustrated. It's normally triggered by hearing what other people are doing, comparing my life with theirs and wanting more. I have such BIG DREAMS and I want them NOW!!! Right now. Not in a year or two (or three, or four). It's very hard to be patient. I am not a patient person.
There are days I want to scream, to shout and maybe kick something if only I had the energy. Those days I just try to weather the storm, not try to be smiley-smiley, Pollyanna; but I hate feeling like that so I've found the best way for me to cope is...
Distraction. Distraction. Distraction.
I try not to give myself too much time to think about the bad things. Instead I focus on what I can do. Even if it's something teeny, tiny. When I was very poorly it was sticking one sticker on a card. Now it's editing a hundred words of my novel. Or writing a short blog post. I find it helps to have something I can see at the end of the day, physical proof of my achievements and progress.
Browsing Facebook or watching TV doesn't help me when I'm feeling down, it's like time and energy gets swallowed up with nothing to show for it. I need to have a project to concentrate on, something I can think about when I can't actually work on it. I can plan my novel out in my head, or workout what changes I need to make to my website for when I do have the time and energy.
How do I decide what to do?
You have to choose something you enjoy; but you need to be able to break it down into smaller stages. That way you can do a little and then go back to it another day. That can be really hard when you're already feeling frustrated. You want to do it all. Get. It. Done. At least I do; but there are some things that nobody can do in a day, no matter how much time or energy they have - that's what I tell myself when I've only edited one paragraph and I feel the weight of all I still want to do and achieve.
Help someone else.
If you can't help yourself, sometimes helping people in a similar situation can be almost as good. I set up survivingsevereme.com and easytoswallow.co.uk for that very reason. I used all my awful experiences of being ill to help others and in doing so I found it much easier to cope. It felt like my time and suffering wasn't wasted.
It really is one day at a time...
It's not the answer you or I want to hear; but it really is a day by day process. Not looking any further into the future than this day, this hour, even this minute. It's the best, and maybe hardest, way to cope with limitations.
What one thing could you do today that would be fun and feel like an achievement? Focus on that, no matter how small it is. Concentrate on that and let tomorrow take care of itself.
How do you stay positive or cope with having limited energy? What one thing are you going to do today? Pop on over to Facebook and let me know...
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.