There’s a ‘battle royale’ taking place in my body every day I endure my life-threatening illness – it’s the mental struggle between pessimism and optimism. By quashing negative thoughts, more often than not, my cup of life remains half full rather than half empty…
I’ve learnt that staying on top of a terrible condition like cystic fibrosis (CF)* and recently acquired diabetes takes a lot of physical strength and belligerence. But just as significantly my mental approach has been just as decisive a factor in still being alive today and defying the survival odds.
Positive thinking is critical. When negative thoughts on a particular health related matter spring up, I work hard to swat them away. This coping mechanism of switching my mental channels to block worry and stress helps to manifest better health for me.
I try to manage the disease rather than let it manage me. I work very hard to compartmentalise CF so that it fits in with my day and life plans rather than the other way round. All the medication is just something I need to do at certain times of the day, so that I can get on with my life.
Rather than focus on the facets of my life that are perversely affected by CF and diabetes, I flip my thinking and compare myself to healthy people, sportsmen and businessmen to create a different benchmark.
The final chapter
We all know of people who like to read the end of a book before the beginning in order to discover how it all ends. What if that book centred on the outcome of your fatal illness? Would you still want to read ahead?
I have chosen to ignore reading that final chapter, focusing instead on the here and now and the things I can control. I do not want a deep knowledge of all the things that could go wrong or the likely side-effects.
I tend not to overly procrastinate about the worst case scenarios and scaring myself unduly. I feel the less I think about that, the less it can manifest in me. I prefer to visualise good lung function where I can run for longer without coughing and where I have surplus energy to achieve all I want in life – work, play and family.
Indeed, I have made a conscious decision not to read my condition’s obligatory ‘small print’!
Jedi mind tricks
I am no Saint but I have developed ‘Jedi-like’ mind tricks to deal with the variety of health situations and dilemmas that have been thrown at me over the years…
In my world there really is no time for moaning or whinging about treatments – what’s the point in complaining about something that I do so regularly? I’d spend a large portion of my day getting all down and negative… that’s not my bag!
During my intense intravenous (IV) treatments; I have learnt to read the signals in my body and how my lungs are responding to the drugs. I used to perceive extra mucous production as a showstopper and get very upset – once resorting to using my steel toe-capped boots in near-by woods to kick trees as a way of venting my anger (sorry trees!).
Usually the reality was very different and the extra coughing was a good sign as the drugs were getting into parts of my lungs that hadn’t been treated in a while.
In my 20’s, I developed a poor attitude towards the need for sleep often telling people that “I’ll get all the sleep I need, when I’m dead”. This stemmed from the projected life expectancy of 30 hanging over me, where sub-consciously my body told itself that those hours intended for sleep were better served living what was left of my life!
Recently, I have improved my mindset towards sleep by trying to breakdown this bad sub-conscious habit. This was even more important with all the broken sleep that comes from being a parent to Felix. I work hard to change my thought process to “needing all the sleep I can get to live as long as possible”.
I do think about a possible cure that future treatments like gene therapy might offer, but I can’t afford to dwell on it for too long or get my hopes up as there have been too many false dawns in my life.
Maybe one day I will have the need to delve into that final chapter of my life book; but until that day comes, I’ll keep drinking from my half full cup, visualise good health and keep ignoring that small print…
“The quality of your thoughts determines the quality of your life.” Vera Peiffer, author & psychotherapist
READ ALL ABOUT IT – For those that missed it last week, my story and blog featured in the Guardian G2 Health section on 15 February. Click here to view the article…
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Look out for my next post as I countdown to my 40 year milestone…
* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 8,500 people. The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations.
For more information and to find out more view the CF Trust Website