Self-esteem emerges from the very standards that you set for yourself. However, with a diagnosis of chronic illness, your standards have to change because if they don’t, you will be destined to fail. Often times, setting new standards for yourself can be quite tough especially if you were the kind of person who often took on more than most. If you were used to a 50 hour workweek, working out twice daily, and going to bed late, you are going to have accept that you can no longer do all of things. Finding new standards in both your personal and professional lives may involve delegating and even learning to say no.
From my own experience, I know that I not only had to change my own expectations but I also had to change the expectations of others towards me. Prior to my diagnoses, I had a lot happening in my life from my son’s school activities to helping out various friends and family. Chronic illness forced me to come to the realization that I had to learn to prioritize and my priority was my kids. Now, I spend more time at home with my kids, I don’t have as many visitors to my home as I once did, and I don’t jump at every opportunity to help. I have changed and so have my standards.
Prior to your diagnosis, you had ambitions that may have included a promotion or a higher educational degree, getting married, having kids, and/or saving the world. Whatever your dreams were, it feels like chronic illness has taken them away. However, that is not entirely true. Just because chronic illness has made some things difficult for you, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals and dreams and small or big, they are still possible. What may change, however, are the time to get there and the path that you take. Maybe chronic illness has taken away your opportunity to have children, so adopt, don’t dwell. Or if you have had to change careers because your health posed physical limitations, find a job that you can love just as much without the physical requirements. Your dreams are still possible but changes have to be made in order to get there.
Prior to my diagnosis, I had different goals and while I still have goals, they have become slightly altered since chronic illness came into my life. Five years ago, I had planned on attending law school but when I got sick, working full-time, spending time with my kids and attending law school no longer were possible. As a result, my plans changed, I earned a master’s degree in legal studies and continued on in my legal career. I also started to advocate, took on a more challenging legal position and decided if law school was in the works, it would happen much later in my life.
The belief that being chronically ill means your dreams are no longer possible isn’t true. Further, your dreams don’t have to change – the timing and the path does. Living with chronic illness means you start looking for a better quality of life and in turn, you will find that you can still continue to have dreams and goals.