I was diagnosed with epilepsy almost 25 years ago. I’m extremely fortunate to very rarely have seizures, but for the last two years I’ve had to deal with other consequences of the illness. Although things have improved tremendously, that came in part because I finally accepted that my body simply would not allow me to do certain things.
As a result, I’ve had to spend a great deal on health care, forgo opportunities to earn additional money, and let go of things that I love. While there are great benefits - for example I HAVE to sleep at least 8 hours every night and monitor what I eat very closely - the challenges are typically most evident via my wallet. The following are a few things I’ve had to learn to continue to flourish:
1) Do one thing. When some need to get more done, they sleep less; or when they need to save money for a big purchase they cut expenses in other areas. I can’t sleep any less, nor can I cut trips to the doctor, prescription costs or my food bill any more than I already have. So, when time or money is short I have to choose one thing outside of my health I want to concentrate on, and get to work on that. I may not be able to do everything, but I can do something. I’m still in control.
2) Search for generic options. Pharmaceutical companies are getting better at matching the chemicals found in generic drugs to those of their brand counterpart. If your medication is expensive, talk to your doctor about the generic version, or switching to a less expensive brand. Be sure to thoroughly review the side effects of any new drug first.
3) Check your food choices. This may cost more right now but it’s completely worth it in the long run. Food is inextricably tied to your health. It may not be the reason you’re ill but it can have a tremendous impact on any challenges. Invest in organic meats and fresh vegetables, avoid all canned goods, cook at least four times as often as you eat out, and consume processed sugars no more than once per week.
4) Move. Working out has always been a necessary evil but I remained pretty consistent until my health issues revved up. Once I got things under control it was still a problem because more of my time was now taken up by other, required tasks. I finally got back on track by not making excuses or grandiose plans. Regardless of where your health challenges lie, you can hopefully move some part of your body. Focus on that which you can control, and don’t allow that which you cannot to take over.
5) Seek $ opportunities. You may be too ill to work a traditional full time job. Fortunately, we live in a time where options for making money are available 24 hours a day without leaving your home. Figure out what you are capable of doing, and begin searching for ways to make money in those areas.
6) Remain grateful. Whatever you have going on, it could always be worse. Every day, find at least one thing to be grateful for. The next day, add to the list. Keep going until gratitude completely engulfs any feelings of pity (don’t feel bad if that takes a while).
7) Be conscious. You may not be able to control your illness but you can control your approach to recovery. Find doctors that listen and will take your concerns to heart. Research all options and most importantly, get a second, third, and possibly fourth opinion. I saw five different doctors, including two at the National Institutes of Health (a godsend!), before finally arriving at my current treatment plan. No one is going to care as much about your health as you.
Arguably one of the toughest aspects of illness is the loss of control (note how many times I’ve used that word). Sometimes our mind or body puts us through things that our spirit is far beyond. Controlling that which you can is often the best way to get through any challenge.
And so it is.