Monday, August 8, 2011

Moving Onward & Upward No Matter the Challenge

Detail from July 5th journal page
Today was literally a time of stepping back into the light after an entire day spent in darkness and wrapped in ice packs.  I have a lot of issues with my hands and feet but I daresay my chronic migraines constitute the singlemost debilitating condition that I have to face.  May and June were really good in terms of headaches but July was one of my worst months ever and so far, August has kind of sucked.  Oh well...I can only move forward and work with what I have.  Yesterday I did manage a blog entry, two canvas backgrounds and the initial layering on a journal page.  I think it can become habit to focus on what you can't do with chronic illness instead of celebrating what you can do.  I see that quite often actually on blogs curated by the chronically ill and it gets tiresome to read about so I can only imagine what it is like to live your life always falling back on the negative.

I've been asked privately many times how I get so much done while dealing with this or that health challenge and the simple answer is that I try to function with the mantras "Just Move Forward!" and "Every Little Bit Counts!"  Sometimes I work only in five-minute increments but that, repeated throughout the day, adds up.  When I feel better, I build on what I accomplished in those little blocks of time.  And over the years, I've gradually learned not to put my disabilities first.  Instead, I try to focus on what I can do, however small.  I'm not perfect and I get frustrated over and over again but as long as I constantly realign my thinking back towards the positive, I keep moving forward and getting stuff done.

And while I'm on this particular soapbox, I have also discovered (and research supports this) that sometimes pushing through what you think or was told you can't do and trying it anyway helps you make strides forward.  My long time physical therapist says he sees this phenomenon every day.  Patients who actively push the boundaries of their disabilities actually make more progress faster than those patients who come in with "I can't do x, y, or z" as their opening line.  People in the latter category arrive and leave defeated.  What a terrible way to live!

So if you're reading this and you have a chronic illness, that's my advice:  Understand that you will get frustrated and angry and depressed but don't allow yourself to settle for that.  Celebrate small victories, practice good self care, make room for bad days but make the most of good days.  Life is not a race or a competition.  Every step, however small, takes you farther on this journey.  Stop trying to assess how far you have or haven't gotten and just do what you can.

Well, enough said...I'm off my sweets to practice what I preach.  To all a good night!


indybev said...

Wise advice. There are depths of the human spirit the medical profession has yet to understand!

sharon said...

I love how you reinforce yourself with positive somehow every day! I also love how you can take a small detail of your work, and I can find so much going on in this one detail, so much inspiration Michelle! You are awesome!

Roann Mathias said...

Wow. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I appreciate your honesty and frankness about health issues, particularly migraines. Being an artist is challenging enough without the added pain and down time from headaches.
I love your advice about just 5 minutes at a time. I just started doing 15 minutes a day (in my studio) , to get out of a rut, and everything that you wrote resonates with me. Doing something creative in spite of pain or other issues, is like poking a stick in the eye of the problem.
Thanks for your post, and sharing your beautiful art!

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