Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset
Proactive: creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened
I am a proactive person and always have been. I don’t wait around for the world to magically make things work out for me. At the same time, I have come to realize chronic illness requires what I think of as being “patiently proactive” rather than “aggressively proactive”. In my opinion, if you want to experience success in being continually proactive with a chronic illness, you need to be patient. Without true patience (versus patience just for show), you may become bitter or feel helpless when the results of your proactive efforts don’t go your way. You may experience spurts of being proactive, followed by periods of feeling beaten down until the next spurt comes. If you are proactive, but not patient, you might find yourself advocating in enraged tears in situations not requiring such an emotional intervention on your part in order for it to turn out how you want. Don’t waste perfectly good tears on a nurse who read your chart wrong!
Living life with complex, chronic illnesses is already incredibly stressful for a variety of reasons. I figure, why make it even more stressful if I can help it? I have found being patient allows me to feel a sense of peace and understanding when people are idiots, when things aren’t working out, when I’m having a flare, while I’m resting even though I am having a “good” day, when I am feeling hopeless, or while I’m waiting around in doctor offices. I crack up when family members become extremely frustrated/agitated on my behalf in doctor’s offices or the hospital, because I used to be the same way. These days, I am usually calmly lying there, knowing getting worked up won’t do anything or make the ER doctor less ignorant; it is better to wait and see where the situation goes. (I know if the situation were reversed, I’d flip out too.)
Developing this patience when it comes to dealing with my illness took quite a bit of introspection and practice. It didn’t come overnight. However, once I developed it, I found my illness became much less of an acute stressor. This doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I lose my patience or that it is all sunshine and butterflies over here. It means, more often than not, I can wait those difficult periods out without becoming a stewing, bitter, pessimist or having a nervous breakdown. From my experience, one of the best things you can do for your health and healthcare is learn to be patient, which in and of itself, makes practicing patience proactive.
To me, being patiently proactive means….
- doing nothing except rest in bed a whole day and giving my body time to respond
- allowing myself to feel whatever emotion pops up, but not allowing an emotion to ruin my day, interactions with others, or outlook on life
- recognizing when I am experiencing intense grief for the life I lost, and having the insight to allow myself to feel, process, and express those emotions (even if I just did so yesterday) before encouraging my mind to move along to more positive thoughts
- assessing my life for facets hindering my recovery, but having the self-control to quietly observe rather than make brash decisions
- observing I need to go to the hospital, doing so, and that is all — it is what it is, no need to catastrophize what this means for me or my future
- going to the hospital to get emergency fluids and not punching the doctor in the face when he explains he knows all about POTS and goes on to explain a condition actually known as orthostatic hypotension
- trying suggested treatments I don’t want to try, or I think sound silly, and doing them to the fullest before writing them off
- giving my all to my latest treatment plan for the allotted time whether it is helping at the moment or not
- following my protocol, even on days I’d rather enjoy my “good day” or wallow in my “bad day”
- working hard to help a doctor gain the knowledge to help me but remaining calm when I don’t get the response I’d like
- remaining calm and non-judgemental when, according to nearly ever medical journal article published on the topic in the last decade, my new doctor’s medical opinion on an issue I mention in passing is outdated by thirty years
- spending hours researching medications, finding a medication that could be helpful and is recommended for my condition, then not going ballistic as I wait weeks for the doctor to decide if I can try it
- trying a new medication, carefully monitoring the drug’s effects on my body, resisting the urge to jump to conclusions
- calling the doctor’s office for results or help and, after hearing “it will be another few days,” for the third time for a test that should have been back 10 days ago… being able to calmly advocate for myself and get the results
- deciding I am going to do an activity I am inclined to do and understanding (versus blaming) my body when it reacts accordingly to my triggering its disease
- knowing something is going to make me sick, but having the insight to understand just because I’m not comfortable or enjoying the activity as I used to, doesn’t mean I can’t experience happiness from the activity
- minimizing the amount of stress in my life but not begrudging people or situations counterproductive to this goal
- assessing my body each morning then spending the hours after waking up trying to help my body feel as healthful and balanced as possible, noting what works and what doesn’t, not getting too frustrated with what doesn’t and taking a moment to feel gratitude for what does
- thinking positive thoughts to boost my morale, but not feeling disheartened when negative thoughts pop up
- having the wisdom to recognize when I need a break from trying new treatments and feel no guilt
- making a conscious effort to accept my illness one day at a time, realizing this is my world for right now, not necessarily for forever
- working continually at being patient, but not blaming or berating myself when I can’t rise to the occasion
Although helpful, being proactive with chronic illness is exhausting, and for the amount of effort put in, it is fairly unrewarding. I suppose this is true of many things in life. If I didn’t have the ability to practice true patience, I think I would have lost my mind by now.
Sometimes, the most proactive thing you can do is learn to practice patience.
What are some ways you are patiently proactive?