It happened out of nowhere. You woke up one day and you felt like crap. You thought you were just sick, but that feeling never went away. Day in and day out, you just kept on feeling sick. You finally got your diagnosis – CFS, ME, FMS, CFIDS. And your whole life shattered, right before your eyes.
You may not have noticed at first. You may have tried to go back to normal. But soon you notice that the old normal doesn’t exist, and that your life has irreversibly changed.
And then one day, you notice that you’re scared a lot. Not over anything in particular. You’re just anxious. Afraid. Nervous.
You don’t get it. You were never like this before. You were never so afraid of life before. But now you find that you’re terrified of everything.
You’re scared of when you’ll relapse. You’re scared that you’ll get worse. You’re scared of leaving the house in case you start to feel really ill while you’re out and collapse, or something equally embarrassing/horrible. You’re just scared of what life will throw at you next.
This is totally normal.
Your life exploded. Shattered.
Ka-bloooeeeey. Bye-bye old life.
I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but that’s scary. You got thrown straight into the unknown. Sometimes it feels like God has a big pointy stick, and he’s poking you. Its a new game, with new rules. When you don’t know the rules yet, it often seems safest to, well…play it safe. And that is totally normal. You’re gun shy.
We have to create a new comfort zone for ourselves. And I know that motivational experts all talk about “getting out of your comfort zone” but I’m with Havi on this one. You have a comfort zone for a reason – because its comfortable, and safe, and known. Its where you can hide.
And trust me, after you’ve suddenly become chronically ill, hiding is all you’re gonna want to do for a while.
So allow yourself to sit with that fear. Explore that fear. Find out what feels safe to you, and gosh darnit, go get it! You really, really need to feel safe right now. Find something from your old life that makes you feel better. For me, it’s art. I made art before I became sick, and I made art after I became sick. It was a constant, something that grounded me.
Find something to ground you, to comfort you. Even if its something silly like your favourite television show, or a favourite movie. Find something that you loved, that reminds you of who you are, and makes you feel safe, like everything is going to be okay.
Because it is. Everything is going to be okay. It just might take some time.
So find the things that make you feel safe. Build yourself a new comfort zone. Realize that its okay to be really scared right now. And if someone criticizes you about it, or makes you feel ashamed, ask them how they’d feel if they suddenly became chronically ill and their entire life exploded and changed. That usually shuts them up.
Slowly but surely, you can learn to expand your comfort zone. You’ll learn what makes you sick and what you can still do. You’ll learn how much is too much. You’ll learn warning signs that your body gives when you’re close to overdoing it. You’ll learn what helps and makes you feel better.
Slowly but surely, you’ll learn the rules of this new game. And as you master these rules, you’ll find that the fear abates, bit by bit. One day, you’ll wake up and you’ll find that you’re not really scared anymore. You know how to play the game so that you can win.
And winning is what it’s all about.