Before I became sick or as sick as I am now, I had huge goals. I was going to be a top executive, earn a huge salary, and have it all – and I was willing to work all of the hours it took to get there. I loved the challenges of working hard and I took pride in working hard and being able to earn a nice living. Each year as I became sicker and sicker, my dreams and goals started to diminish little by little. I still believe in setting and achieving goals, but it’s amazing how my goals from 20 years ago are so far from that go-getter I once was. I still have the go-getter brain, just not the go-getter body to go with it.
I tried, struggled, and wore my body to the ground for 15 years sick trying to get to the top and everytime I would reach the level I wanted to achieve, my ME/CFS would knock me back down – putting me in bed for a long period and I would end up losing everything I had worked for. After this happened a few times, I finally got smart and realized that no matter how badly I wanted the better things in life; no matter how much I wanted to be “somebody important” in the executive world, my health was not going to allow it. I ended up waving the white flag of surrender and filing for the disability papers because my body had completely shut down and there was no resting for a few months and getting back in the game. I was done and I knew that it was for good this time. The severity of the shut down was so severe I knew that I would never be the same again. At least for the old way of life anyway.
It took a few years but once my body slowly started recovering, it was amazing how my goals had changed. At one time, I worked 10 – 12 a day, 6 days a week and now I feel like I’ve accomplished something if I make it through my two or three shifts of 4 – 5 hours each a week at work. I work all week now what I used to work in one day, but I appreciate it so much more now.
For so many of us who are dealing with ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, it’s the little things that mean so much and we to remember to set realistic goals. Setting realistic goals doesn’t mean that we are giving up or giving in to our illness. It means that we have accepted what we have to live with and that we can’t be ignoring the signs when our bodies are telling us that we are doing too much (like mine was doing for years). Eventually it always catches up and we pay for it.
I still believe I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to – within reason. I know that I will never be able to work a management job again because I physically can’t work the hours, but I know that I have so many skills that can be an asset to a company or to someone. I just have to use my imagination and find the right fit. I really enjoy working in the grocery business. I held my first management position in the grocery business many years ago and I have always enjoyed that kind of work. I would love to use my knowledge of health issues and disability to try and make these types of jobs better workplaces for people with disabilities. There can always be room for improvement in every company and I think I could provide valuable insight on these issues.
I have always found that making lists and crossing off each item as I complete the task on the list makes me feel like I have accomplished a huge goal. No matter how big or how small the task is on the list, being able to cross off one more thing that needs done is a great feeling. It also helps when I’m suffering from the brain fog to have lists so I don’t forget what I need to do.
Setting realistic goals for myself makes me feel like I am still a part of life and society and not just a “sick person”. For example, I have my fitness goals right now that I have set to work out twice a week at the gym. Now there are weeks when I can only go one day and there are weeks when I can’t go at all because of my illnesses. But I still have my goal and I aim to reach it every week as long as I am healthy enough to do so. An unrealistic goal would be for me to say that I am going to go to the gym 5 days a week or that I’m going to enroll in an aerobics class. That is just not physically possible.
I had set a goal to get myself well enough to be able to at least work a few hours a week and I have done that. It took a few years, but I was able to get myself back out into the working world again. I can’t work a lot, I can’t volunteer to stay extra very often and I won’t be eligible for promotions, but I work hard and I am there. I’m doing it. An unrealistic goal would be for me to try to work 20, 30, or 40 hours a week. I would love to be able to do it, especially to financially help support my household but it’s not possible. It’s not an achievable goal any longer and I have accepted that.
I do have some long range goals that are going to be harder to achieve but I know that I can do them even with my illnesses because others with ME/CFS have achieved them. It will take a lot longer than someone who isn’t sick but I’m determined to achieve my goal – but slow and steady and without jeopardizing my health any further this time.
So start planning, dreaming, and writing down your REALISTIC goals and if you would like to share, please do so in the comments! I would love to read them!