Hope in Times of Chronic Illness

Hope in Times of Chronic Illness

 

“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, no tonic so powerful as the expectation of tomorrow.”

– Orison S. Marden

 

Someone once told me it’s better not to have hope, because it will only lead to disappointment.

I couldn’t disagree more. Hope has shaped my life time and time again.

When I was a housebound teenager, unable to attend class for entire semesters, graduating high school seemed impossible. How could I take my exams – let alone pass them – when I could hardly sit in a chair or focus on the material? And yet, whenever I felt like giving up, there was always that stubborn voice in my head whispering, “You can do this”. 

When I was struggling to get through my days, it didn’t seem likely I’d be able to travel the world like other twenty-somethings. If a trip to the grocery store feels like a Polar expedition, getting on a plane to another continent is not a realistic prospect. But still I fantasized about one day road tripping through California, going on a safari or visiting my friend in Hong Kong.

When I was slowly and painfully weaning off my medication in the hopes of some day having a healthy baby, I worried if my body would ever be strong enough to carry and deliver a child. But dreaming of cuddling my baby, taking him or her to the zoo and playing on the beach together gave me the motivation to cope with the horrible side effects and work on my health.

And here I am today. Through all the ups and downs of life with chronic illness, I somehow managed to pass my high school exams alongside my class mates, get a degree in Psychology and make memories all over the world. I became a proud mama of the cutest baby girl I could have wished for. My heart swells with joy whenever we dance across the room, read bedtime stories and do all those silly little things I’ve dreamt about.

None of this came easily. It required a lot of hard work and determination, it still does. But what’s driven me in all these situations is hope.

Some people confuse hope with expectations. Having a detailed scenario in mind about how things should go, however, can crush your spirit if life decides to take a different turn. Hope is more like having a destination in mind, but staying open to all possible roads that lead you there. It’s what sparks your determination to do whatever it takes to get closer to your dreams. Hope helps you push past the pain and obstacles on your way. It’s believing that your struggles and despair will pass, that better times are possible, sometimes against all odds.

As Anne Lamott said: “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”

Hope alone is not enough reach your goals. You need grit, patience and support. A little luck won’t hurt.

Not all your dreams will come true, no matter how hard you try – that’s a disheartening fact of life. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on hope all together. Part of having hope is accepting that your life isn’t perfect and never will be. Yet hope makes you feel that taking tiny steps towards your goals will be worth it, whether you ultimately succeed or not.

Don’t use hope merely to escape reality or hang on to people, situations or ambitions that are (no longer) right for you. Instead, let it empower you to find a way out of the darkness, even when it’s a different journey then you had pictured. And who knows, maybe someday a hopeful heart will lead you to some pretty amazing places…

 

Has being hopeful ever helped you get through tough times or achieve your goals? How do you keep your hope alive when you’re living with chronic illness? 

 

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