Truly none of us are normal deep down inside. We all have our crazy stuff, some more than others of course (myself included!). Better for most of that stuff to stay buried you say? Maybe so. Then again, why ever lose hope for becoming more whole, getting well?
For some of us, we don’t get to choose what will be normal for us and our loved ones. This is particularly true when someone gets sick or suffers a serious accident affecting them for say, 6 months or longer. After 6 months the healthcare profession changes your status from acute to chronic. By then the “normal” way of life has broken down and often looks a lot different than before the event. Expectations can change for the future; often people look at you or treat you differently as well affecting many, many relationships.
When living with a serious, ongoing illness or disability, new norms for life get set in motion and become habit. At some point we have to adapt to the changes in routines, levels of functioning, finances, symptoms, emotions, social dynamics, recreation, work, and more. If we don’t adapt then we would spend incredible amounts of energy and resources repeatedly trying to figure out how to cope with the changes. Instead, new daily activities get strung together as new habits, eventually become routines and may even become a new identity as they combine into roles such as “patient,” or “caregiver.” The phrase, “new normal” comes to mind when such profound changes affect both our lives and the persons around us every day.
We don’t necessarily like where we have landed when it is undesirable. Sometimes we can’t change things for awhile; other times the changes become permanent. We do have to make a choice about how we cope with all of it emotionally and in our thought processes including our self-talk. Will we be angry or find peace perhaps in the promises of our Lord, Jesus Christ? Will we give up or keep seeking for answers to aid our recovery? Who will we blame for our lot in life at any given moment? Acceptance may come or it may never arrive on our doorstep. However, some semblance of acceptance is key for moving forward.
The process for me in finding a new normal has occurred slowly over 5 years of battling a serious illness. If I were to summarize the 3 tests noted above of adaptation, emotional adjustment, and thought processes I would admit that I do not like most of the current outcomes. I don’t like the myriad of mold and chemical-avoidance strategies that everyone in our home must complete every day to minimize triggering a seizure attack episode for me. But we do them anyways. I used to cry just about every day and now it’s much less, mostly when discouraged by roadblocks in my care. But I keep searching anyways for answers. Lastly, I don’t and have never doubted that these daily wretched episodes have a biological (NOT psychological) cause that can be treated. So I use the tools I have to help myself get well. I don’t know when or how or why the episodes will stop. I do believe that one day they will stop completely.
And when the seizures stop I will embrace a new normal. Things won’t be the same as they were 5 years ago when I was working as an occupational therapist in home health care. My physical frame is weaker and injured from all of the physical trauma and I’m not sure how much I can get back. I will try, however! I can no longer attend our church, contributing to the loss of many relationships that were just getting started when I got sick. Travelling is restricted to camping in the Tin Can Ranch (on wheels!) for the foreseeable future. On the flipside, a few positive outcomes include having tremendously increased my computer skills, renewed my interest in entrepreneurship, and desire to support my husband’s growing paddling dealership. Being his helpmate has given me purpose on my sickest days when making his lunch when I am awake in the middle of the night was all I could do for my Stevers.
What becomes unpleasantly “normal” may not have to stay that way forever (and usually doesn’t). Those of us who learn to trust in the plan that the Lord has for our lives may find it easier to accept the changes when they come. We let the Holy Spirit guide us, comfort us along the way. We keep our eyes fixed on Christ and our hearts and minds soaking up His Word. We are then better able to let go of wanting things to be as they were and are better ready to grow into the possibilities of a more meaningful, maybe even more fun, tomorrow. I never thought I would be the Assistant Editor of a national canoe and kayaking magazine nor blog or help an artist friend complete her website. I just did what I could with what I had, where I was (as Theodore Roosevelt once said) and have landed in a better place in many ways. Better yet, I trusted in knowing:
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
You will be the first to know about those plans for sure, Gentle Reader. We have come a long way together, you and me. I thank you for sharing my journey. Feel free to share your thoughts about the “normal.” We are going to be alright no matter which side of the spectrum we are on, eh? JJ
Steve and I celebrate his team win at the 2010 Maumee Tri Adventure Race