People often ask me, "How do you do it? How do you stay so positive?"
Really? Me? Positive? If you told my family that I'm a positive person, they would laugh their heads off! Unfortunately, they see the real me, and while I try not to let them see it, the "real me" comes out all too often. The real me needs too much help to get normal things done. If I want to go out, for example, someone else has to help me get dressed (usually my husband). Like putting on my socks and shoes, because my spine has deteriorated to the point where I can no longer bend down. Also, I can't lift my legs up because of the lymphedema in them, which causes them to be heavy, big and filled with hard tissue. Someone else has to be on hand to get my scooter out of the car, too, because I am not allowed to lift heavy things (I have two hernias). And someone else needs to drive because lately, I can barely reach the pedals in the car. Seriously, I think I'm shrinking!
For someone who is (or was) very independent and would often go out and do things with friends at the spur of the moment, it is frustrating not to be able to get up and go. I have to rely on others. I don't like it that I have become a burden to my family. I know I have, because when we think about vacations or going anywhere at all, it always comes with the "what about Mom?" line in the next breath. For example, to visit my daughter, who lives about eight hours away from us, we have to pack my scooter, a tub-chair, and my CPAP machine. We also have to stay at a hotel, so that means getting an accessible room. Did I happen to mention I'm also accident-prone? Letting me outside in the winter is the last thing my family wants to do because if someone is going to slip and fall, IT WILL BE ME. Hands down! Without exception, if something terrible is going to happen, then I will be the one it happens to.
Now, does that sound positive to you? My husband says I'm a pessimist. I say I'm a realist. How can I not be? We have been married for 37 years, and the first "accident" I had was on our honeymoon. I reached into my makeup bag and sliced the tip off my finger on an uncovered razor blade. I can't imagine what the maid thought when she saw all the blood.
Throughout the years, I have sprained ankles, snapped tendons, fallen down the stairs (three times, once with my newborn son in my arms). I have broken my thumb three times (going down water slides - don't ask), and let's not forget the accidents in the kitchen (just don't let me near knives). On top of all that, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease that, from time to time, leaves me with severe infections that require me to be hospitalized. All in all, my husband had no idea what he was in for. Poor man.
So how do I not give in to feeling sorry for myself and have a pity party? I have five key strategies that I have relied on for years, and without them, I think I would go mad. I share them here because maybe you are in a situation where you want to give up and cry. Trust me - I have had those days. Don't give into them. Pity parties are the worst sort of parties. They only have one person attending them - YOU! So before you throw one for yourself, try one of these strategies instead.
1. Be Ridiculous
This is a picture of me after I had botox injections. Seriously, this is really after I had both my legs operated on. I did not know then how bad things would become and that my stay in the hospital would be a long one, but I knew enough to be ridiculous. Life is short and you never know when your time will be up, so make the most of it. Have fun! Do something that will make you look ridiculous. Learn to laugh at yourself! You will not only make the people around you feel better, but your mindset will change to thinking about how you can make them feel better despite how you are feeling.
2. Find the Funny!
I debated on whether or not to share this picture. I mean - how much information is too much information, you know? But this is the best example I could find of me finding the funny. I had been hooked up to an I.V. for the umpteenth time and decided that I could get dressed by myself before I went to the nurse to get my bag changed. I ended up with my bra tied in a knot on the I.V. tubing. I could not get it undone because one end of the I.V. was obviously in my hand, and the other was in the I.V. bag (which was housed in a little pouch to protect it). So I did the only thing I could think of - I stuffed my bra in the pouch, went bra-less to my appointment and waited for the nurse to be "surprised" when she went to change my bag. Instead of pulling out the I.V. bag, she pulled out my bra. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard before and the nurse had a good laugh too.
3. Accept Help
Sometimes you need help!
I used to be the one who would bring meals to the sick, help clean their house or visit people in the hospital. It made me feel good to help others. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and people have to help me and the worst part for me is accepting that help. I get embarrassed when someone sees that my floors need sweeping or my house needs dusting. When I try to do these things, I don't get very far before I am in horrible pain. So when someone offers to help me do those things, I have to learn to say yes, because, in the long run, I will only stew about how messy my house is and that will bring my mood down. But if I let someone ease my burden, it will also lighten my mood.
I wise friend once told me not to squelch her God-given gift of helping others. She wanted to bless me, and I was too embarrassed at my need for help that I wouldn't let her. Thank the Lord, she set me straight. Some people feel called by God to serve others. So don't deny them the opportunity. God has sent them to ease your burden - so let them.
4. Pray for Others
I had a dear friend who died of cancer several years ago. One of the things that amazed me the most about her was that before I could even ask her how she was doing, she would always ask me how she could pray for me. And I always responded with, "Pray for me? My problems are nothing compared to yours. How can I pray for you?" It was at that point she would chastise me by saying, "Just because I have cancer and the problems that go with that, doesn't mean your burdens are less serious. Let me be useful. Let me pray for you."
You want to be useful? Then pray for your family, friends, your church, your government - the world! You may not be able to help someone now physically, but you can change lives and the world through prayer.
5. Read Your Bible! Get to Know Your Saviour
At one point in my life, I was treated for depression, and praying or reading the Bible was the last thing I wanted to do. But you know what? Once I committed to reading my Bible daily, I started to feel better. Why? Because God revealed more of Himself to me through His Word, and it was Him I held on to during those dark days of despair.
God has you where you are for a reason. Don't be like the crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9), who waited for 38 years to get healed. Take up your mat and follow Jesus now, in your current condition. Stop wallowing in self-pity and start believing that God has a purpose for you. Get used to saying, "This too shall pass!" If you allow Him, God will continue to use you no matter what your situation. Trust Him, and you will begin to see your gloomy attitude change to a positive one.