Any chronic illness is a fight. It’s a fight with your body every day. It’s a fight of whether or not to do the thing. It’s a fight of whether or not to get out of bed or to leave the house.
Some days I win the fight. Other days I lose.
This last week and a half, my body has been in a bad flare. Two weekends ago, we celebrated my daughter’s 8th birthday and I pushed my body quite a bit more than I should have and as a result, I’ve spent the greater part of 10 days trying to recover. There have been several days where I was in so much pain and had so little energy, that I didn’t get out of bed until after noon.
But yesterday, yesterday I finally felt like myself again. I have some life back in me. I don’t always have the energy to do things, so when I do, I take advantage of it.
Yesterday, I lifted heavy things and put them back down. I went to the gym and reminded myself that even with my, sometimes broken, Ehlers-Danlos body, I am still an athlete and my body can still do great things.
Before my EDS symptoms began to severely impact my life, I was an athlete. I was a runner. I lifted weights. I was a personal trainer. I celebrated my body for the things it was capable of doing.
It was 2014 when I received my diagnosis. I had had joint pain and other miscellaneous issues my entire life, but in 2014, it was like my entire body just started falling apart, all at once. It was hard to accept that suddenly my body had limitations and I couldn’t do the things I was previously capable of doing. It was definitely a grieving process. I had to grieve the loss of the life I was once able to live and accept that, with the information I now had regarding Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I had to adjust my life accordingly.
After my EDS diagnosis, I reluctantly ceased running and weight lifting at the insistence of my doctors and following several injuries (some of which may have been avoided if I had been willing to accept my limitations sooner). But for several months now, I have watched with jealousy as my mom got back in the gym. I’ve watched as my mom was living out my own dreams in the gym. When my mom told me that she had learned how to deadlift, I cried. Deadlifts are my favorite exercise. Deadlifts make me feel more powerful than anything else.
It doesn’t matter how old that little girl gets, even at 30 years old, she’s still watching her mom.
But it was then that my jealousy turned into anger towards EDS. Anger that EDS took away my ability to do the things I love. As I started to feel that anger though, and process through that emotion, I realized. EDS didn’t take away my ability to lift weights. It can still be done. It takes different precautions and methods than I used before. And that’s when I was able to turn that anger into an insistence to do more and accomplish more.
What I reminded myself of yesterday, is that no matter what my physical capabilities and limitations are, I am still an athlete. My body can still do great things! I must use more care and I can’t go at the same level of intensity as I once did, but I can still do it. I can still lift heavy weights. I can still push myself and then push myself some more. I can still celebrate my EDS body for what it is capable of doing.
I am still strong. I may not be as physically strong as I used to be, but I have more strength in me than I ever dreamed possible.
Some days, I might lose the fight against my pain and fatigue and nausea. But today (and yesterday), I am fighting back and I am winning.
Today, my body is sore from yesterday’s workout. But it’s that sore that reminds me, with each step, that I am STRONGER than Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I may have EDS. But EDS does not have me.
I have EDS. But I am still me. I am still an athlete and EDS cannot take that from me.
Celebrating my accomplishments, no matter how small, are the strongest weapon we have to fight back against chronic illness. Celebrate taking a shower on the days you can barely move to get out of the house. Celebrate brushing your teeth on the days you can’t get out of bed. Celebrate a day with no dislocations. Celebrate the memories made. Celebrate your body for what it still can do, instead of focusing on what it cannot do.
No matter your diagnosis. No matter your limitations. No matter the cards you’ve been dealt.
What are the things that you are celebrating today?