Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chronic Illness and Life Goals

Vladimir at Wellbook is hosting the next edition of the Patients for a Moment Blog Carnival and he asks a question that stirs a lot of mixed emotions in me.  He wonders - "how have you learned to adapt around your illness in order to accomplish things that are important to you - even though your illness may prevent you from achieving the goals you had before you got sick?"

I never had 'prior' goals to becoming ill.  I have been ill since the day I was born.  Some years have been better than others, and yes...I will admit that I started to set my sights on life higher during those times.  

For most of my life I was an incredibly confused child when it came to dream professions or ways of life.  As a result, I would basically mimic whoever I had decided was living a decent lifestyle at the time.  Whenever I was at home, I would basically sit cross-legged with a book and daydream about nothing I can remember, as I felt I didn't have a talent in the world.  Once I discovered people like Amanda (who writes at Pink Robots Need Love Too), I wanted to be athletic and super-social and disorganized!  She inspired me, so I tried to live like her.  I did the same thing to Leslie (who blogs at Silent All These Years) in the junior high years, joining Allied Youth to feel like part of something.

Around this time, I found out I had a photographic memory and that I could get EXCELLENT grades.  That was my life for the next...7 years or so.  I would sleep, eat, and dream education.  Plus, it worked perfectly as  someone with chronic illness (as both high school and university deal better with absences than work).  I was miserable and uninspired the entire time, and I'm not sure I would do it again if I had the chance.

I lost my photographic memory (actually a fair amount of my memory) when I was 19 years old.  This is when the illness severely took over my body, and I ended up having to move home to live with my parents.  I finished university online due to their urging (and am thankful I did).  I am still reasonably intelligent, just not the same.

Since those days, I've tried to get numerous jobs.  I have never worked more than a 2-3 month stretch in my entire life.  Those are the longest good stretches I've had.  I've never held an adult job.  

I am a late-bloomer at learning who I actually am.  Bed-ridden chronic illness has actually helped this process more than one would ever think.  I now know how much more I appreciate writing and art!  I know how much I want to stand up for rare diseases and mental illness - as there is so much stigma placed against them!

If I ever get this illness under control - I think I'll be able to follow those dreams.  But in a way, it definitely helped me get to where I needed to be.


Jonathan said...


Toni said...

It's amazing how chronic illness and being bedbound can focus us. You're discovering that you have a real gift for writing. I think that it's going to bear fruit more than it already has in this blog. I believe that something good will come of this period of "forced" introspection. There are days that I'm so sick, it's all I can do to get through the day step by step (metaphorically speaking!). But on other days, I'm actually able to see some good that's come out of this illness, how it's focused me on what really matters in my life -- my family, being creative. Your dreams have come into focus too. You'll reach them!

dominique said...

Wow! Your post left me speechless. You actually have really great insight. That is amazing to me for someone so young. I am turning 48 this year and only recently developed that ability.

I can totally relate to your memory situation although I didn't have a photographic memory but I was considered at the genius level. Now I struggle to just find my memory on most days. That has really proved a challenging obstacle for me because it makes me feel dumb even though I know I'm not.

Thanks. You really inspired me today.

Anonymous said...

I love this post Annie.

Annie said...

Thanks everyone!

Anonymous said...

This post is so moving. You have a special ability to reach out and touch others. Glad you are finding you!