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Chronic Illness is Unpredictable, but You Don’t Always Have to Fear the Unknown

Chronic Illness is Unpredictable, but You Don't Always Have to Fear the Unknown |

*This post was first published on, and is republished here with permission from the editors.

What’s your plan for retirement? Does nothing concrete come to mind? What about in 10 years, or maybe just five? What about tomorrow, or this evening? I admit to drawing a blank in my mind to most of these questions. As someone who lives with chronic illnesses, life’s just more unpredictable than it’s already reputed to be.

So what do we do? Everyone has a life plan; isn’t that supposed to be important? It’s easy to spiral down into despair, frustration and self-loathing when we can’t plan for and reach these standard milestones in life. Everyone seems to be adulting, while it feels like you’re just some helpless kid.

The Frustration of the Unpredictable Life

The only steady companion throughout my journey thus far is fear; how can it not be when pain and uncertainty fills your days? It’s natural as human beings to seek out some sort of stability in life. To have a broken boat for a permanent home is stressful. My eyes are always on the horizon watching out for the next storm that I know will come. It’s just a matter of “when”. Surrounding me is a vast expanse of gloomy unknown, with hidden predators lurking beneath.

My life definitely comes with higher chances of unpredictability. Yet the average person’s life can also change in an instant, and sometimes in even bigger ways. As much as I fear the days of my “retirement”, I must say that I’ve made it through life pretty okay so far. I have supportive people to thank for this, but the decisions I’ve made, and the struggles I’ve endured have played a part, too.

Do Not Become Your Own Biggest Obstacle

Life has a sense of humour and wisdom beyond feeble mortal reasoning. Dealing with pain is hard enough work as it is, without the added stress of over-expectations and self-imposed rules! I find it helpful to redefine my expectations according to my current capacity and not someone else’s, if I am to begin living a fulfilling life at all.

In a bid to remove as many obstacles along my path as possible, I need to be careful of not becoming my own biggest hindrance. It is a constant process of learning how to take down these self-erected barriers of guilt and blame. Padding my shoes with self-care is essential for going further. Life is a marathon, yet I often forget to keep myself hydrated with self-belief. Looking at the lanes to my left and right aren’t helpful either – how does it help with my journey forward?

“There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don’t allow yourself to become one of them.” – Ralph Marston

There is No Right or Wrong Way to Live Your Own Life

Another point I’d like to highlight is that there’s more than one way to live your life. There are billions of people on this planet, and every single one of us has variable ideas of what a good life looks like. In fact, you might not even agree with a majority of these views.

Some people call life a journey, some call it a dream, an art, or even a joke. I think it’s a combination of them all; life is what I want it to be. We all have our own balls to juggle no matter who we are. But living with chronic illness is like having more balls to juggle, or doing so with an injured hand. It can be tough but I have to try, and it will get better with practice.

There is Magic in the Unknown, Too

Sometimes, to not know where I’m going to end up can be a pleasant surprise, too. It adds a bit of magic to the journey, and spices things up. It can create extraordinary memories that are worth remembering. It also fills the gaping holes of drab routines with the colours of meaning. What I fill these holes with is up to me – there is no right or wrong way to colour. But I want to encourage you to take life by the hand and let her lead the way, because she will never lead you astray.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Read More: I May be Chronically Ill, but I’m Also Chronically Resilient

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  • A very easy thing to do – fear the unknown. Since turning 46, I really feel the pressure to get my life plan in order. I’ve always planned for retirement but after getting sick, I had to dip into savings to get through things. Now my med costs are so high, I’m not putting back nearly enough money for retirement and that terrifies me. I have a plan and was able to put back what I had to take out, but the older I get, the worse my fears become. If something happens to my husband, I’m in deep doo-doo! All I can do is keep on going and keep trying to sock away as much as possible. We’re pretty much decided now on staying settled in Taiwan now. That idea was still up in the air this time last year.

    • Definitely… I think lots of us with chronic pain and illness have similar thoughts and fears especially in regards to retirement and aging parents, etc. The future is a frightening place, but like my mum says, one day at a time. And I do believe that as humans, we are wired to survive 🙂

  • It’s so easy to fear the unknown, watching out for a flare to come along isn’t it. I’ve tried hard over the years to be more measured with it, and not let it hold me back from doing things I enjoy.

    • Yes, especially once you’re out of a recent, major flare. You just don’t want to go back to that deep, dark, depressive place again. I hope you gain strength and immerse yourself in beauty daily!

  • Sometimes it can be hard to know what to plan. I find alot of short-term planning is good. Sometimes I have to change it depending on how I’m feeling on a particular day but it is inspiring to find things to look forward to.

    • Yes almost impossible really with chronic illness. Short-term planning works for some, and I’m glad it works for you! x

  • Great post Sheryl! I like the title! I definitely have to be careful not to become my own biggest obstacle. I’m definitely getting better at getting out of my own way, but it is a constant learning curve in remembering to let go of guilt, worry etc! I love how you say there is magic in the unknown. I most definitely agree! ?

    • Hi Emma,

      Thank you so much! I’m glad to hear you are mindful about your own journey, it can be such a difficult thing to do 😉 Yes I tend to want to control certain things, so that’s a constant reminder for myself 😉 x

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