A crazy dream I know but what if you were free to choose your own future without your illness restricting and controlling your life? A future where your chronic illness had been cured and you could just go about living the life you always wanted.
Would you decide to pursue the life you’d originally intended for yourself before you became ill (presuming your illness hasn’t affected you from birth), picking up the pieces the best that you could and then continue from where you left off? Would you introduce some subtle changes or would you take your life in a completely different direction?
What would my life look like without MS?
The reason I ask is it’s something I’ve been pondering a lot myself recently. Not because I expect there to be a cure for MS to be found anytime soon, more as a consideration of how my illness has changed my overall outlook on life. I’ve gradually started to realise just how much my priorities have shifted and how significantly my values have altered since I became chronically ill.
In fact, nothing emphasises this more than my attitude towards teaching now. There was a time, not too long ago, when I was in pieces when I realised I’d have to leave teaching due to my ill health. I’d thrown everything that I had at my teaching job for years and felt like I needed to maintain my role at any cost. I enjoyed it and was passionate about art education and inspiring others (and always will be). For me, as with most teachers, the job certainly wasn’t about the financial security it provided but I appreciated that aspect of the role nonetheless.
However, the more time passes the more I realise that what I used to value just isn’t as important to me now. Many aspects of the profession I used to endure for a regular wage I feel are just not worth it. Yes, I could be creative and I loved helping others but these aspects of the job were massively drowned out by the sheer amount of pressure I was working under.
I feel like I was living with blinkers on for the years leading up to my illness and that it took being diagnosed and subsequently living a life a limitations to fully realise that life is too short to make the sort of sacrifices teaching demanded of me. It’s like my eyes have finally been opened to the truth of what’s really important in life and what isn’t and I refuse to tolerate anything but the best possible life for myself anymore.
Why waste time (I don’t really have) not living life to the fullest or not immersing myself in the things I value the most? Fear of the unknown used to hold me back so much but I realise now that to live life fully I have to be willing to take risks, be resilient and appreciate my own worth.
The thought of the future I’d originally planned for myself of staying in teaching until I retired actually sends a little shudder down my spine now. I can only imagine the burnt-out and frazzled mess I’d be, completely disillusioned by the whole education system and buried under an ever increasing and frustratingly faddy mountain of paperwork (although that’s assuming that my undervalued arts subject even continued to exist in schools in any meaningful capacity by then)!
I’d much rather take all of the things I loved about my job and focus purely on those instead. I’d also love to travel more. Being restricted definitely leaves you yearning for the sort of freedoms travel can provide. I think my dream future would be travelling around the world and being inspired by my amazing experiences. This would fuel my creativity so much and I’d work as an art and travel blogger, sharing inspirational art and craft tutorials from some amazing locations. Sounds improbable doesn’t it? There would be so many ‘what if’s’ and practical factors to consider but my overall feeling is why not? If it didn’t work out I’d adapt and I’d find something else that I’d really enjoy doing with with my life instead!
Ultimately I wouldn’t be prepared to settle for anything less than what makes me happy. Enough money to live off is important and I would do what I needed to pay the bills but beyond that life is definitely for living, not sacrificing time with my family in a stressful job earning more money than I really need.
How would you live your life without your chronic illness?
I’m really curious about what other people with chronic illnesses also feel about this. Am I alone in my drastically altered outlook on life or has the impact of living with a chronic illness significantly influenced how you’d choose to live your (illness-free) life too and if so, in what way?
I asked a few of my fellow chronic illness bloggers their thoughts on this and their responses absolutely blew me away! I’m so grateful that they took the time to respond, please check out their blogs if you get the chance. I really hope that one day soon they’ll be able to do all of the amazing things they’ve shared with me here;
Caz- Invisibly Me
‘Before I got ill, I had wanted to get into Clinical Psychology. Most of my 20s disappeared in a haze of sickness, hospital appoints and, more recently, surgeries. I have the First Class hons degree required but not the health to commit to such an incredibly difficult 3 year course and full-time placement plus travel. Now that I recognise the importance of our time and of spending it with the ones we love, and how fragile our health is, I want to explore the world a little more. If there were a miracle and I had the health I did before all of this, I’d travel to Japan and soak up the culture, then I would take a long trip to Australia to do bar work and travel and meet new friends. Instead of three more years of study, I’d perhaps move to a county offering the IAPT 1 yr course to qualify as a Mental Health Wellbeing Practitioner to more quickly get into my field of interest.’
Jenny- Tripping Through Treacle
‘I’d volunteer overseas to help disadvantaged communities and children. I trained as a speech and language therapist and feel that I could really help. Oh, I’d also have ‘run a marathon’ on my bucket list!’
Hailey- Life Rejuvenated
‘I would do my community service. I have always liked to get my hands dirty to help others. When I was in high school, I volunteered at the local nature center and built houses with habitat for humanity. Watching the joy of a family who relieved a new and safe home filled me with joy as well. I think about how happy I would be joining the peace corp or building irrigation systems in Africa. I would want the world to be my teacher and to lead me where I am needed. Unfortunately I’m on 20 different meds and extended stay out of the country is almost impossible. Even if I could get the meds, I get too fatigued to get out of bed some days.’
Wow! Their responses are truly inspirational! I know I’d definitely put myself forward for more opportunities too, I’d love to train to run a marathon and do plenty of charitable work, as I’d really like to help people who needed it the most. Like the lovely people who’ve contributed to this article, I wouldn’t let anything hold me back!
I realise that it’s easy for people who don’t have great prospects for living an illness-free life to make grand and sweeping statements about the new life we would create for ourselves but I truly believe that given the opportunity to live a life of our choosing we would squeeze every last drop of enjoyment and feeling of purpose out of life as we possibly could, I know I certainly would!
It’s also likely that, as chronic illness sufferers, we tend to glamorise or place too many expectations on what a future without illness controlling and restricting our lives could mean for us, we would still have problems and difficulties to work through. Not everything we struggle with in life is the result of our illnesses. However, there is no question that life would be easier as there would be a lot more freedoms and opportunities available to us that I’m sure we’d be quick to take advantage of.
For one thing, we are used to adapting to major life changes, we’ve had to with our illnesses, often time and time again as they become progressively worse. In fact, I wrote an article recently on how to carve out a new path in life inspired by these very valuable experiences. Having the skills to successfully shape a new future for yourself is important whether it’s in response to something positive or negative in life.
Maybe for some of us the day will come when our illnesses are cured or the damage is repaired and we can live our lives fully. I imagine there would be a hell of a lot of celebrating if that actually happened!
Personally, I think it’s good to have hope but I’d never rely on a cure being found. If I do know one thing for sure though, it’s that I’ve learned so many important life lessons which will stay with me and help to enrich my life, regardless of my future health.
What are your thoughts on what you’d do if you could live life without your chronic illness(es)?
Do you think that being ill has changed your outlook on life?