10 Ways to Live A Happy Chronically ill LIfe
When Life Hands You Lemons, Use Them to Garnish Your Lemon Drop Martini!
When I first got suddenly hit with all this sickness nonsense, I assumed I would wake up any day and find it all a dream. Then, I realized after doctor #2 told me "you should stay in bed all day," this was probably not a dream. Then after doctor #3 so kindly commented, "some people never recover and cannot hold normal jobs or live a normal life ever again," I decided to nix the dream idea phase and return to living. The trip I had planned to Las Vegas before being sick? Yep. I was two weeks out of the ICU and on a plane. This past December, we had planned two years before a trip to Israel and Egypt. I told my parents, "I paid. I'm going. We can take my wheelchair." I went and my assistant tour guide helped me through the sand to the base of the pyramids. I also rode a camel!
As for college, I would finish my pre-med degree. I may no longer be able to do the two jobs I had there, but I was going to finish. Even if my wheelchair fell apart, someone would carry my half-dead self to class. I had waited four years to take Immunology. I was going to take it! I am proud to say, although it took me another year, two hospital visits, numerous ER hellos, and one concussion I finished college. I even hobbled across the stage with my cane to get my diploma (so take that Doctor #2).
This past October, I flew by myself, thanks to all the wonderful airport people who pushed my wheelchair and visited a graduate school near my friend's place. My dreams of going to graduate school ended with my illness, but I haven't forgotten them! Sadly, with the amount of energy and work needed, I cannot physically handle it. A sad confession, but true. Still, I am so happy to be out of a wheelchair and rarely need a walker, although, my cane and I are still best buddies that I must share the ten ways of living my happy chronically ill life. If even one person reads this and can relate, than I have done an awesome job!
#1 Rediscover Your Passions!
When I was younger, my biggest desire in life was to become a jewelry designer. I loved jewelry and wanted to make it my life. Diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, I would capture them all in rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. What I made, would sparkle and enchant people. I wanted to surround myself with every element and get GIA certified. I even got accepted to my school of choice! Unfortunately, without the um...significant funds, I could not afford to go (that is okay because I ended up finding another passion in biology). Being sick has allowed me to return to jewelry design. I started my own jewelry line because I wanted to share my work and my passion. For me, being able to make something beautiful is still as amazing and wonderful as before my body fell to pieces.
#2 Take a Trip
After I got out of the ICU, my friend texted to ask.."are we still going to Vegas? Because we don't have travel insurance." My reply? "OF COURSE WE ARE GOING EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO DRAG MY HALF-DEAD BODY ONTO THAT PLANE!" So my family was not exactly thrilled but they were going on their own vacation and would be a closer flight to Vegas than at home (or that was my argument anyway). I went to Las Vegas, I took my wheelchair through the strip, went shopping everyday (the wheelchair is perfect for piling on the purchases), survived one helluva timeshare experience, and had so much fun.
Now, to be fair, we did have to go very easy on my body. I needed to get lots of sleep and we couldn't be out till seven a.m, but I still got to do everything I wanted. My friend and I were even able to party ViP and I held onto her for dear life when ever I put my cane away. Thankfully, my cane folds up to fit nicely into a purse. See? No longer chronically ill! Unless, I let go. Then I might fall over. This picture is from one of our night's out with my cane and I in the Luxor lobby. At this point, I only needed a wheelchair for long distances and a cane for anything more than a few feet.
#3 Learn Japanese
Or any New Language
After living in my bed for hours on end, I decided it was about time I did something. I loved Japan and the Japanese language (hence why my jewelry line is Sasayaku and all my jewelry has Japanese names). I decided...well. I love it. I think I will start learning Japanese! My family comes from all German descent so there was a lot of ok...Japanese...why not German? I don't know. I realized, once I started, that I loved it! I loved the Kanji and the hiragana. I do NOT like the grammar. Language grammar and I did not get along in Spanish or German, so not surprising, we don't get along in Japanese either. Still, I love listen to it everyday and do my best to study when I can. I love it and I finally have time to learn the language!
My Japanese Textbook!
I started out by learning through webpages and than researching the best textbook. This one is awesome because there is a CD with it and one professor even has podcasts to help explain what is happening. This is one of the best textbooks, it is right up there with immunology and pathophysiology...ignore the last two. If you plan to learn Japanese, than this is the way to go!
#4 Take an International Trip
No. It's not the Same as Take a Trip
When I say take a trip, I mean one in your country, where you know the language. Well, sometimes in Las Vegas, they felt like a whole different culture but that's not important. What is important, is to go someplace that you have never been to and always wanted to visit. Just experiencing a whole new culture, was so wonderful and eye-opening for me. To see how other people live, and some of the sad poverty made me appreciate how lucky I am regardless of things. Egypt was a wonderful place and the people were so kind. Israel's people were even kinder. They always went out of their way to make meals I could eat (I have way to many food allergies) and helped with my wheelchair. So I had a wheelchair...I can still travel wheelchair fabulous!
The picture is me in my wheelchair in front of the pyramids. Even though our tour guide Nor looks like he is chasing after me, my chair was probably stick in the sand.
#5 Finish What Ya Started!
When my body was in its lowest point, I needed help to even get to and from the bathroom. Despite knowing I was falling apart, I needed to finish college. No. I HAD to finish college. Dropping out would have meant giving up what I had struggled and worked so hard for. I already had to give up my research job (good-bye counting fish) and taking care of the school's animals, I didn't want to give up what I had tried so hard to achieve. I never finished the semester's classes (except one) where I got so sick I was almost never there. But. I did end up finishing my degree. It took a long time to achieve, another year, two hospital visits, a lot of ER hellos, and one concussion. Despite all that, I made it across the stage with my cane and a big smile!
My picture is of me after the ceremony with my little sister. Ironically, she is taller and a rock climber. She helped push my wheelchair through all mud, snow, sludge, and rain just to get me to class. I am so lucky to have her!
#6 Get a New Hobby
I managed to finish one class during the semester I first got sick. It was the one I was most terrified of, watercolor. Since those scary beginnings, and awful first attempts, I have found a hobby which I enjoy. I find it relaxing, and sometimes maddening, to attempt to create something beautiful from the water and paints. My style took a long time and many sad attempts to find, but I did! Now, I keep working on it whenever I feel the urge to be an artist. I keep getting better all of the time (and least I hope so) and it keeps me feeling alive.
My picture is of one of my latest paintings. My style is bright and manga type people. I like the paintings of Monet but that is not me when I paint. I like my people to be perfect in a non-reality way. I love having hair blowing in a non-existent wind and bright colors. If I feel like blue hair, than I give them blue hair.
My friend loves my style and wanted a picture based on her childhood character love, Sailor Moon. If you are the illustrator for Sailor Moon, I am NOT putting the idea of her as mine. I just did a painting based on her look but not from a specific picture.
#7 Share What You Know
I've spent a long time eating gluten free, then gluten/lactose-free, and now gluten/lactose/yeast free. No one really knows what I eat (even me), but I wanted to share what I could about being gluten-free and traveling or the best products. I believe if I can help one Celiac not get sick, then it was all worth the effort. I wish I had known about all the things I do for traveling internationally prior to now having taken three international gluten-free trips. They would have made life..a lot easier.
The picture is of me at a hotel in Jerusalem. When they learned about my plight, they made me the same dinner that was going to be fed to the head of the whole hotel chain. So pretty and delicious too!
#8 Find the Humor!
Remember that saying, when life gives you lemons? Make lemonade. Yeah. I hate that saying. Use the lemons to garnish your lemon drop martini all the way! When life hits you so hard that it changes you forever, you can't make the same lemonade as everyone else. And you do not have to! My version of life giving me lemons is to turn it around and use it how I feel best. I use my experiences to find the humor in what others would only see as horrible. Yes, sometimes life is so miserable I am throwing up all over. Ok. Then I make a lens about throwing up everywhere internationally. Hospital bedridden? Of course I will make a lens. You cannot change what life gives you but you can change how you use it.
#9 Talk About Your Health Experience
When I first got sick, I was almost ashamed of it. I didn't want people to know and I didn't want anyone to treat me differently. Now I talk about it. People will ask politely and instead of the previous..."I'm falling apart at an early age" with dirty look, I give them a fast run-through. I tell them that it's okay with me to ask questions. People tell me they think it's really cool I keep doing everything I do despite all my health problems. Right now, I am working on a book about my first year of being chronically ill. I had to deal with a lot of dead ends, doctors who didn't believe me, hospital stays, missing school, and being a testing pincushion. I would have loved it if I had known someone who had gone through the same things I did. So even if my book only helps ONE person, then I will have seen all this craziness as a success.
My picture is of me standing proudly sans wheelchair at the Jordan River. I had been on the bus for hours and was so happy it was finally warm and sunny! O. Thank you brother for carrying me down the steps to the river! And to whoever carried my wheelchair down. I forgot your name but I appreciated it!
#10 Try New Things!
Whatever happens in life, I do my best to try new things. I always loved foreign movies but now, I actually have time to watch them. So I learn a little something new with each one and a few more phrases to stash in my language cache. My friend had whiskey stones, okay, I will try them..just not in whiskey because I cannot drink it. That movie that looked weird on my netflix? What the heck! Why not check it out and see. The worst that can happen is you don't like it.
Honorary #11! Try writing for squidoo! I find myself loving it more and more everyday! This place is awesome and a great way to check out what is happening in the world around me.
My picture is of me in my wheelchair meeting that guy from True Blood. I've only seen one season and kinda lost interest but my friend insisted I go. So that was me trying something new, meeting a celebrity. He signed my cane because I had no idea what else to have him do. The photographer took this since I was like..meh..that's okay. I don't need a picture and then they posted it on the store website. I think I can happily say...this is one new thing, I don't need to try again but it was fun (minus four hours of getting there early) anyway.