“If I Were Healthy …”

There is this little game I like to play with myself when I’m feeling down in the dumps or depressed or just very ill – for functional purposes, I will call it “If I Were Healthy.” The idea is that I think back to the days before I was so sick (or, perhaps, the “pauses” in my life during which I was healthy) and what I would do given a certain current scenario if I had all the energy and strength I know I have in me to actually use. I take a current issue and look at it through the “lens” of the “healthy Beth” (or “healthy Elizabeth”) and think about what I would do or what I might do if I had all of MY capability to do so. For instance, there is a person with whom I would love to be friends and I know we would be GREAT friends if there were not a long list of “circumstances” that stood in the way of that being true – a big one is the fact that I am so ill and part of my illness hinges on a certain treatment. It’s depressing to think about it in my current “condition;” I know that I have done all I can do given my particular set of “obstacles,” so to change my perspective from the “negative” to the “positive,” I play “If I Were Healthy….” In this situation, given that I would still have met this individual regardless of my current health, I would not hesitate to reach my hand out and offer help in whatever way I could. I would stand strong and let this person know I was fully supportive of whatever this person needed in life. Another example would be something like going back to school. Thinking about how I had to STOP taking classes quite literally with fewer than 6-7 classes until graduation is PTSD-inducing. However, if I think “If I Were Healthy,” I would imagine a scenario in which I started to contact the local schools as well as my “alma mater” would-be and arrange something to finish my classes while simultaneously taking other classes that would enable me to pursue the field in which I am currently interested (I went to school for English and Philosophy; I was actually offered a spot in the PhD program without having to apply; I would certainly continue my studies in Philosophy if I had any interest in academia but I have learned through the years of chronic illness that I really don’t. I have also learned that I really hate most “literature” and most of the study of English with the sole exceptions of grammar, rhetoric, and very tiny periods of American literature and Continental Theory).

Playing this game, “If I Were Healthy …” accomplishes 4 major goals:
1. It allows me to understand the person I am deep down and the things I am capable of doing and how I am capable of doing them.

2. It shows me what I want NOW and shows me the things that I once thought I wanted that I no longer want in life. The example of studying to become a Professor of English or of Philosophy is one example of that.

3. It gives me a much more “optimistic” outlook on the state of being ill – as I mentioned before, this is especially true when I am feeling sad or depressed or just fed up or when I am just very ill physically. It allows me to see how chronic illness has, in fact, allowed me the unique perspective of being one of the few people on Earth to have the space and time to really understand myself and to understand what I want and why I want it.

4. It gives me a potential “plan” for the future. If I were suddenly (or slowly, over time) to become “well,” I now can see what I want and playing this “game” allows me to see how the things I want can be accomplished, step-by-step, and what personal attributes are needed to achieve them.

I realize this is kind of an “out-of-the-blue” post, but it’s an important one, in my opinion. I have been feeling very ill today and I have had a very stressful few weeks / months regarding issues I have previously discussed either openly or covertly – the mind games we face with chronic illness can take control of our lives very easily. IT IS PARAMOUNT THAT WE DO NOT ALLOW THE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS OUR MIND THROWS OUR WAY TO TAKE OVER. And so I engage in things like this – any means of “turning things around” so that I can see there is no black and white scenario; that things change (even when you’re busy being sick!); that few people are blessed enough to have the time to really figure out who they are and what they want out of life – just think about how many people you know who are stuck in relationships with people they don’t really love, in jobs they don’t really like, in houses they can’t afford, in areas they hate, &c. &c. One of the BLESSINGS of chronic illness is that it gives us that *PAUSE.* It allows us to examine who we were and what we wanted and compare that with who we ARE and what we want NOW. Trust me when I say that is one of the rarest blessings there is – most people cannot tolerate being in a room with himself or herself for even a few hours without starting to go bonkers. And we are experts in doing just that! And in having done just that we have come to learn SO DAMN MUCH.

It might seem like thinking about how life would be now if we “were healthy” might be depressing; as I mentioned above, I find this to be the furthest thing from the truth. We are blessed with the ability to see OUR OWN LIVES from something of an “objective” perspective – and however we choose to utilize that perspective and whatever comes from it is up to each of us – but I do believe that good things come from just having that ABILITY. It all comes back to that 0 V 1; the default state or the state of action; the state of failure or the state of success (and honestly, action taken to accomplish something, even if it doesn’t “work out” the way one had hoped, is SUCCESS). I really hope that has helped some of you out there who are also struggling tonight. I hope it is at the very least a way for you to be able to look ahead at the future and not see endless blackness and fear. I know the last post I wrote carried a very different tone – so I wanted to share one of the ways I manage to pull myself up and out of that feeling of being absolutely “overwhelmed” by the INABILITY to act.

I hope you are all having a happy and healthy day or night wherever you are in the world. And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE remember that my heart is ALWAYS with YOU.

❤ Always, Beth


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