Dealing with Disappointment

Chronic illnesses bring with them a slew of disappointments, big and small. While it seems against the whole “stay positive” theme to admit that, ignoring disappointment under the guise of “positivity” is a bit like hiding an infected wound under a bandage — it may look clean and tidy on the outside, but it’s still festering inside. Therefore, we all need tactics to deal with those disappointments — actually treat that infected wound with antimicrobials — and do it with a positive attitude!

This past week, my physical state has led to some definite disappointments. I was down with a fibromyalgia flare and recurrent migraines for the entire week. It was one of those weeks where I was barely up from one assault before the next one knocked me back down. Each time I was expecting to feel better, and each time I was disappointed.

First came the piercing pain, the nausea, the occipital and trigeminal neuralgia, over several days. As the migraine abortives dulled those, other symptoms asserted in its place: a worsening of the gnawing pain in my legs, neck and back spasms, shooting pains along my spine, burning pains all across my back and arms. For a day or two, it was hard to even dress myself or comb my hair. Then when time and tramadol dulled those a bit, I realized I was in the grip of complete and utter fatigue. I was exhausted to where I was dizzy and eating, at times, was a difficult endeavor. Only by the end of the week did I see a pattern, and realize that I was in for an all-around fibromyalgia flare.

89_Solitude
Based on a similar painting (unknown artist) that was swathed in cool blues and depressing hues, I experimented with some colors to inject HOPE into the scene. (oil on 8X10 canvas; available)

The result was that I missed all week’s worth of pool exercise classes (though I stayed continually optimistic about being able to go). I also missed the once-a-year outdoor art market that was held yesterday. I have no energy to get up to do anything at all, not even a bath. Needless to say I was fairly disappointed. Disappointed that I “wasted” a week in bed, disappointed that I have no energy to pursue my painting aspirations, disappointed to have missed the art market that I was looking forward to for months!

Unfortunately, weeks like this are not uncommon for me. They have caused me much agony in the past. At first, I would push through regardless. Then later, as that stopped being an option, I would be reduced to tears, wondering if my life will now forever be at the mercy of my condition. Then one day I realized that while many things may indeed now be affected by fibromyalgia, one thing I do have some control over is how I react to it. Having sparred with the “dark side” before, I knew I had the power to “unsink” myself. Therefore, in order to keep my chin up while dealing with such disappointments as my own body has proven to be, I developed a few practical tools.


The three main tools in my “coping with disappointment” toolkit are:

1. Finding an alternative that’s equally appealing

One of the most disappointing things about being down with a chronic illness is thinking of all the things you missed. Chief among those last week was the art market I really wanted to go to but really didn’t feel up to. I have also been hoping to start painting more since last weekend, which has not yet happened. So instead, I decided to engage in other painting-related activities that I could do from bed:

  • I worked on my new Etsy shop, listing new paintings on there regularly.
  • I tried creating fancy displays for my paintings with a new app I downloaded, and have been sharing them on my Facebook and Instagram art pages.
  • And last but not the least, I am sharing my artwork through the blog posts I am writing!
PhotoFunia Kitty and Frame Regular 2017-11-17 03 47 34
One of the fun painting displays I created using the “Photofunia” app. My painting of the daffodils is titled “A Breath of Sunshine” (oil on 8X10 canvas; available).

There have been other “alternatives” in my toolkit too, like writing/blogging, reading* and marathoning through Stranger Things and Anne with an E.

The result was a week where I was in pain and discomfort (I won’t sugar-coat it), but I kept myself “active” from bed, engaging in things that made me happy! The week was not what I wanted it to be, but it was enjoyable in its own right, making it hard to be too disappointed by it.

2. Listing the recent good times

When dearly-held plans get trashed, when life disappoints you, it is easy to feel like your whole world is nothing but a dark dreary mess. I can’t definitively prove it, but I have it on good authority that time moves slower when you are in pain! So it is no surprise that it feels like the low point lasts forever. But the objective truth is that the sun has not been and will not be behind the clouds forever. It was out once before, and it will be again. And even while it’s hidden, there are some silver linings!

103_The Silver Linings
The Silver Linings (oil on 5X7 canvas; available)

One of the ways I remind myself of this is by listing the good times I have had recently:

  • Mini art vacation last month
  • Haunted house on Halloween
  • Steampunk festival
  • Shopping (for office-wear for my new job)
  • That’s right, I got a new full-time job! It is with the state as an environmental health scientist.

When you list all your fun times like this (even if you were in pain during some those times, or crashed afterwards — which I did), you realize that all is not dark and gloomy with your world. Life is not all that disappointing as it might seem right now.

3. Showing yourself some self-compassion

Whether or not anything in the toolkit helps you feel better, it’s always good to show yourself a bit of compassion regardless. The idea of self-compassion is to treat yourself like you would treat a good friend. Be kind to yourself as you would to a friend.

Self-Compassion Teapot

This one in particular is a work in progress for me. When I feel like I am “wasting” my time in bed, I try to remind myself that resting when I feel down and out is hardly “wasting” time! In fact, it is the only thing to do! I am being more efficient with my time by recharging when needed; if I kept pushing through, I would only prolong the flare and be less productive for longer.

So don’t berate yourself for the rest you need. Try not to begrudge a bit of comfort eating, or the pleasures of binge-watching Netflix shows. Or give yourself time to weep, if you so feel; allow yourself the space to be unhappy. Disappointments lose a lot of their edge after you have just allowed the wave to wash over you like a tide. Every tide eventually ebbs.

newinnervoice


Though I placed a lot of the examples of my tools in context of this past week, all of these work for much bigger disappointments as well — such as the mega-disappointment of dealing with a chronic illness in the first place.

For example, my new job as an environmental health scientist with the state government is one of those “equally exciting alternatives” to my plans in academia! And if I think back to all the years that I was in high school and college, the years I spent doing the science I loved, the time I spent in the company of colleagues and friends I loved, those are some very good times indeed! My life has been worthwhile through storms I have weathered before I developed fibromyalgia, and will continue to be so as I weather this one as well. And as for self-compassion, that’s a worthy attainment regardless of whether you are ill, but especially if you are chronically and invisibly ill. When the world misunderstands and mistreats you, you may be the only one showing yourself some much-needed kindness.

I hope that my toolkit give you ideas to develop your own tools to fight the disappointments that a chronic illness might bestow upon you. And if you’re a veteran chronic illness warrior with some tools of your own, I invite you to share them below so others reaching this blog may benefit from your experiences as well!

Gentle hugs,

Fibronacci

 

*If you’re curious regarding what I am reading at the moment, it is Martha Mason’s autobiography “Breath,” where she talks about how she lived a fulfilling life of over 70 years, ~60 of which were spent in an iron lung following a childhood bout of polio. In fact, the idea for this topic on how I deal with (far lesser) disappointments came from my musings of this book!

 

Each painting has a story, one that I strive to tell here. Since many of them have to do with my journey with fibromyalgia, 20% of all yearly sales income from my paintings will go to the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association (AFSA), who fund research into this poorly understood condition. If the paintings and/or the cause touch your heart, as they do mine, please feel free to contact me through my Facebook page for more information. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey!

9 thoughts on “Dealing with Disappointment

    1. Thank you so much! Really glad you like the paintings as well as the tips, and I hope the job works out well too. It is very different from anything I had ever thought I’d be doing, but the novelty and challenge are also exciting. Fingers crossed all works out well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is another brave post from you. So true that there will be many times where we will be positive so that we will overlook the disappointment. I do think it’s important to acknowledge disappoint because that will pinpoint our wants and needs – and we can assess what we really want and need from there.

    Good on you for moving forward although you stayed mostly in bed. Sometimes taking it easy is the best option to feel and be better. Recently I was sick, down with a cold and all the while I felt tired. Rather than doing writing like I usually do after work, I just did nothing for about a week – and I felt like that was the best because I really felt I couldn’t do anything more after work, lol. Wasting time can be seen as relaxing time, time that we need to feel both physically and emotionally better 🙂

    Congrats on your new job and hope it goes well! Hopefully they will be understanding about your condition and you will manage it well on the job 🙂

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    1. You have a brilliant way of articulating my thoughts! 🙂 I absolutely agree with you on why we need to acknowledge disappointment even if it is initially unpleasant. By ignoring it, we are ignoring our desires that did not come to pass, which can eventually lead to frustration and resentment. It seems a more balanced approached to be inwardly analytic and truly understand what our needs and wants are. Then, as I mentioned in the post, you can find appropriate alternatives that will still fulfill your core desires and make you happy, even though you couldn’t do the specific thing you initially wished for.

      It is interesting that you brought up relaxation as hardly a waste of time, it is time we spend to physically and emotionally recharge. I know there is a concept of taking a day off “just for yourself” that’s slowly growing in some corporate circles. But unfortunately I have not encountered it any of my potential job searches yet. I do hope it gets to be a more normal thing, because we all need time to rest and recharge for better mental and emotional stability. I think businesses will probably gain happier, more productive employees if they encouraged such things, instead of just slogging away the proverbial desk.

      Thank you for your best wishes about the job! 🙂 I “cleared” the condition and that I might need certain accommodations at times, like work from home or flexible time, but you never know how these things turn out until you really start and get to know your workplace environment. So my fingers are crossed that all goes well!

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      1. Here in Australia taking off a day to deal with stress is common in some workplaces. It’s good as that is what some people need to cope with work and function as per usual. As for me, I would rather come to work and put on a strong facade and just keep pushing through. Just my style and I feel that works better for me, lol.

        Good to hear that your job is accommodating. Cheering you on and hope it all goes well, and you will still get to blog outside of it 🙂

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        1. I fully understand how you feel. I am a stoic at work and in front of people at large too. But it is good to have the option to take a day off as needed, even if one does not choose to use it. I know many who would benefit from that, including me. It is kind of embarrassing for me to have to ask for “sick leave” because it really makes my condition stand out. But if taking personal days off was more a thing, and lots of people did it, then I wouldn’t feel quite so singled out. Also, weird as it sounds, I would be more comfortable asking for “personal leave” than admitting I am sick again. Don’t ask me how that works in my brain, LOL! 🙂
          Thanks for all the cheers, Mabel!! I appreciate your support ever so much! ❤

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Cynthia! I remember how much I struggled at first, feeling disappointment at every turn. I felt like I kind of had to figure it out all on my own. That’s why I really hope that if someone is similarly struggling, that they find some support and help from my story and tips, so they don’t feel quite so alone. Very glad you like my paintings and my commitment to more research into this poorly understood condition. 🙂 Feel free to check more of the paintings out on the social media and Etsy links I posted here, and connect with me if you may be interested in supporting the fibromyalgia research cause. ❤ Thank you for always being so wonderfully supportive!

      Liked by 1 person

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