Sticky thoughts: it doesn’t make sense…

Each year, millions of people spend long periods away from their normal everyday activities because they are dealing with a medical condition. Workers can’t work; parents can’t parent; entrepreneurs can’t entrepen.

Anyone who has been in that situation will have experienced what I call ‘sticky’ thoughts: those destructive questions and frustrations you just can’t kick. For what it’s worth, here is one of mine.

It doesn’t make sense…

You’re busily getting on with life and, suddenly, one screw in the engine of your life comes loose, pinging almost gleefully into thin air. You’d noticed it was loosening. Perhaps you did something to try and stop it; perhaps you didn’t get a chance. Either way, it’s too late now. The part is missing, you’ve ground to a halt and repair is the only way.

And the thought grabs you – and you can’t shake it off – that this doesn’t make sense. You know full well that engines don’t dismantle themselves. For this to have happened, something deeper has gone wrong. Think it through, seek advice, read up on it; most try all of these and I’ll bet most still end up feeling perplexed by their illness or injury. Even the most logical of long-term conditions retain a sense of mystery.

Sometimes you feel close to sleuthing out an answer, a reason, some shred of evidence that makes the pieces fit snugly together. The room goes quiet, all eyes are on you and – just as your eureka moment is about to strike – your friend or neighbour (a member of your family perhaps) chuck a spanner of a question at your still and silent engine of a life and you realise you were nowhere near. It just doesn’t make sense.

My answer? You’re right: it doesn’t. That’s because it’s not supposed to. Bodies are supposed to work and, when they don’t, we are supposed to be perplexed. I’m not talking about denying the reality of your pain, rather I’m talking about accepting the fact that your situation may not always make sense. For me, the moment my long-term condition makes sense in full and in detail is the moment I’ll know I’ve truly given in and given up. For as long as I’m living with it – and that may be forever – I’ll accept not only the reality of my situation, but the fact that it doesn’t make sense.

You may have to help those around you to get to this point, too, by the way. People love to be able to make sense of things and they will try to make sense of you. They will fail and that’s okay. Explain to them what you can, sure. But, while you’re there, think about also helping them to accept the reality you’re living through right now. It doesn’t make sense that you’re going through such a mess. It’s bound to bug you now and then. Just know that the fact that it doesn’t make sense makes you completely normal.

Sticky thoughts: how to survive long-term illness

It doesn’t make sense…

Why did this happen?

If there’s anything I can do…

You’re letting everyone down

This is all your fault, I feel so guilty…

It doesn’t seem like you’re trying…

If only we’d known…



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