I’ve been downsized and I’m learning there are trade offs for it – some are gifts and others are hard lessons.

Having a chronic illness can some times feel like your life has been downsized without your permission. On the one hand I have tried to accept the forced stillness placed on me as a gift to make positive changes. I’ve been fairly successful at this to varying degrees. On the other hand this forced stillness makes me feel like my world is shrinking and with it so to is my identity. I don’t know where I fit anymore.

When I first quit my career due to my illness, I had a feeling of relief and freedom. I had an opportunity to slow down and begin to adjust to the physical changes my body is putting me through. And with this opportunity, came time to re-examine my life.

I learned that I had been very driven by my career, very focused on it and was defined by it. I came to appreciate that this is not the healthiest way for me to define myself as I also noticed especially as I was becoming ill and still trying to work that all of my energy was going into it and not anywhere else. Or that at least too little of it was going to places of equal or more importance. Places like my family, my home and my friendships all took a backseat.

So time off was a good thing for me physically but was also a really good thing for me emotionally/mentally. I started to view the world differently. I began to realize that I wanted to be more focused on my family and my friends and the people that are most important to me. I wanted to be more present in each moment of life and began to notice small things I think I used to miss or take for granted. Small things like my husband’s great smile, the truly cloud free blue sky, the moment one of my dogs brings me a toy with nothing but pure joy in their eyes. I also started to take better care of myself physically which has helped me cope with the symptoms of my disease.

These are good things and things I am very grateful for.

So my illness downsized me in that it took my career and while some really great things came out of that for me, it also shrunk my world considerably thus one of the trade offs that is hard to cope with. It also made me more dependent on other people – especially my husband. And for a once fiercely proud independent person, this trade off has been ego bruising.

Right now, as I enter year two of not working, I realize that I need to begin to find value again in the outside world. I’ve dabbled a little with some volunteer work here and there but nothing that has really spoken to me. I have tried to stay socially connected by going to lunch with friends as they are available but a life of social events and lunch outings is not enough for me to feel fulfilled.

I also notice that as my world has shrunk, so too has my self confidence and I sometimes question my ability to make good decisions and I wonder what my value is now with diminished physical strength.

It can be very hard because some days I feel really almost normal and I begin to fool myself into thinking that I have my disease licked and I start making big plans in my head about how to get my life back on track. Then I’ll have a string of really down days. Aches and pains and shortness of breath and all kinds of other unpleasant symptoms will hit me and hit me like an on coming freight train and I am down for the count.

I’ve been downsized by this disease. There is no question about that. Things have been taken from me and things have changed for me. I have to be okay with this. I have to find a way to be okay with this. I have to find a way to make peace with this. I have to accept that my world is smaller now. I cannot do the things I used to do. I have changed physically and I have changed emotionally. And my place in the world has changed.

That’s what downsizing does. It changes us. It does bring with it some level of ease as there is less to worry about. But it also brings some uncertainty as all change does.

So right now on my journey, I am in a place where I have to accept that I’ve been downsized so that I can figure out how to regain my place in a new and meaningful way in this world with revived self worth and confidence once again.

I have to accept that this means I will be different now but different is not bad, it is just different. I am smaller in the world but my impact can still have value. I can still find a way to connect. I just have to figure out how.