Ali's Thriver's Guide to Challenges
After setting out to come up with a survival guide for coping with challenges — like being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition — I realized that beyond survival what we all deserve to do is to THRIVE. These steps have certainly been empowering for me and for others who've given them a try. Hopefully they'll provide you with a starting place, if not a roadmap to thriving, as to how you might create your own map.
Step 1: Discovery - Know what you have! Ignorance can be bliss, but it's also a means of avoiding the situation. Take your time, but confront your enemy, face the music, and then, in your own way, learn how to deal with the facts presented.
Step 2: Throw A Fit - Don't bottle your feelings, but don't allow them to take over your life. Stick to a normal routine, but allow yourself to balance that normalcy with the realities of your unusual/unique circumstances. When someone says or does something that's insensitive — even if it's the minutest comment — if it makes you feel upset, be upset! Allow yourself to have bursts of anger or fits of depression, as long as those moments don't start to encroach upon or ruin your normal life.
Step 3: (In the words of my Mom) "Put on Your Makeup and Get Out There! - Don't let the reality of your situation or the every-so-often fits of depression stop you from living. Lead a normal life and pursue activities or goals that are both enjoyable and alleviate you from the stress, anger and confusion that surround your health challenges.
Step 4: Don't Be a Victim - Self-pity, self-judgment and all other forms of internalizing a diagnosis or any crisis are not the answer. Don't be the helpless Cinderella waiting for the magical Prince Charming (commonly known as the cure) to come sweep you off your feet. As much as it pains me to say it, in the realm of NMO and other dire diagnoses, there is no time for the magic of fairy tales. You can't indulge in “if only” thinking anymore than you should allow for “what if” thinking. Don't be a patient; be an advocate. Be your own Prince Charming, and be a part of the search for the cure. Donate blood to the repository or be part of research efforts, talk to your doctors and other patients, and spread the word about NMO or other little-understood diseases or issues that impact your life by educating those around you.
Step 5: Remember: The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow - Stay positive! Always try to find the silver lining. I know, sometimes it just doesn't want to be found. If you can remember that everything you are going through is going to empower others to overcome their odds, that might help you remember that you are being part of the solution — and that's a very powerful force to be.
And finally: "Never, never, never give up." ~ Winston Churchill