I is for Individuality – #AtoZChallenge 2018
Most illnesses vary from person to person based on a large variety of factors including age, general overall health, type of illness, and even gender. Chronic illnesses act no differently and can often vary immensely between similar people with the same diagnosis, which makes sense as we are all individuals and while yes we are all human beings we are al vastly different from each other despite the biology and biologic processes being generally similar.
To try to put this into super simple perspective look let’s take a look at plants. Vegetable plants of the same type and species, for example, will typically produce a product that appears to be very similar to one another, but the end result can often be different sizes, shapes, and even color.
Human beings are no different. While our body and its systems may operate in the same general context, there are always going to be some variations in how our body may react to certain stimuli, injury, or illness. Have you ever broken a bone or experienced an injury and known somebody else that went through a similar type of injury but maybe took longer to heal? This is because our bodies react differently as well as the fact that no two injuries or illnesses are exactly alike. Have you ever had the flu and known somebody else who had it more or less severe than you did? While it may very well have been the same exact flu virus that caused the illness there are, as I said, differences.
Chronic illnesses are no different whether that chronic illness is mental, emotional, or physical. This is true regardless of the body system involved. As a result, we must be careful as patients to recognize our individuality and not put ourselves down for not responding as quickly as someone else may have, or possibly as quickly as medical science and your physician may have expected. Further our physicians and other caregivers, be they professional or family members, must be careful to recognize this same fact and not doubt or judge us for how our body perceives whatever insult it has undergone.
Spinal cord injuries are a perfect example of a more drastic nature, but one that baffles many in the medical field including specialists in the field. You can have two patients with the exact same level (in the spine) and type of injury, who have undergone the exact same treatment, maybe even surgery, to repair the injury. Yet their outcomes may and often will be vastly different.
Some people have relatively minor injuries with permanent deficits and even paralysis as a constant reminder of their injury. Yet others in the same circumstance may recover fully or have little in the way of long-lasting negative results. This difference can lead to self-doubt, doubt on the part of family, friends, and even medical providers so it is imperative that we remember that we are each individuals.
Further, it is also extremely important to set realistic goals for yourself, your recovery, and your life after a diagnosis as it is impossible to accurately predict precisely how much that diagnosis may impact your life and those around you. In the recovery process, it is a good idea to explore alternative things to occupy your mind, time, and stimulate your brain despite the medical challenges.
It doesn’t have to be anything major, but personalize the choice to you, your likes, dislikes, and things that you have an actual interest in. While it is good to pick something you know interests you don’t be afraid to explore new paths or avenues of personal enjoyment or fulfillment. As human beings, we tend to stick with things in which we have some sort of an interest and discontinue things we don’t retain an interest in.
It’s okay to explore new paths, but be easy on yourself if you find a few months or years down the road that you are no longer interested in that activity. As individuals, our tastes and preferences change throughout our lives, which is perfectly normal and expected. This is one reason why it is best to find more than one activity that you may enjoy and be able to participate in as that gives you options. Don’t limit yourself to just one thing.
Think of activities as clothing. We don’t wear the same clothes all day every day. We have a variety of clothes in our closet from which we can choose what we want to wear based on weather, mood, activity and the like. Keep your activity toolbox full of various things you enjoy whether it be reading a book, writing a book, gardening, or whatever suits you personally. Open your mind to new experiences and it will open new thought processes and activities for you to enjoy despite any limitations you feel your diagnosis may be placing on your life.
How have you kept your individuality despite a diagnosis? What do you like to do for enjoyment? Have you learned something surprising about your interests after a diagnosis that you didn’t expect?