This blog was originally going to be aimed at people with long-term or chronic conditions who wanted to improve their lives despite the challenges that they face. In many ways, it still is a blog aimed at those people but, the more I think about it, the more I realise that the struggles faced by those living with health problems are just a more concentrated version of the problems faced by everybody else. Though this doesn’t detract from the fact that those of us living with long-term conditions may face more difficulties on a day to day basis, it does perhaps suggest that the contents of this blog may have something to offer everybody.
The bitter truth of our reality is that we’re all facing the inevitable decline of our bodies, just at different speeds. We’re all shocked by the way that our identities change as the clock keeps ticking and the planets continue to spin, only it hits some of us like a bolt out of the blue instead of a gradual decline before the mirror each day. We’re all here without knowing why and trying to make the most of it.
This blog is for anybody that wants to make the most of their lives, but especially those who have a bit more baggage to carry along with them as they go about their merry ways. My intention is to share some of the lessons I feel I’ve learned about life and death from my experiences with chronic renal failure, dialysis and numerous painfully unsuccessful attempts at transplantation. Though I accept that what is written here might not work for everybody, I hope that it can help at least a couple of people out there, and therefore the past
six eight years of my life won’t have been for nothing.
The abridged version of my story: Crash-landed on dialysis after being diagnosed with CKD in 2007. Had a massively unsuccessful kidney transplant in 2009 (coma, 90% blood loss, etc), followed by several years of pain, torture, mistrust of the medical services, and identity crisis. After finding catharsis in writing depressing existentialist novels (need a publisher) and reading philosophy and politics, I was able to go through the process of learning to accept my situation and to redefine my goals whilst living with the constraints of a thrice-a-week dialysis routine.
Ultimately, I have realised that it is possible to be happy in even the most challenging of situations; I have become a stronger version of myself and I have made it my mission to help others become the strongest versions of themselves too, whatever obstacles may be in their paths.
ACCEPTANCE OF A (HEALTH) PROBLEM IS NOT THE SAME AS SURRENDERING TO ONE. I honestly believe that if you learn to focus on solutions instead of getting caught up in whatever is holding you back, you can still reclaim your sense of self-worth and your life despite the hardships of its vicissitudes. As far as I can tell the trick is to redefine your goals realistically, focusing not so much on the specifics of what you want, but on your motivations for wanting these things in the first place. Admittedly, I am still on the learning curve and will continue to learn with the readers of this blog, but essentially my philosophy at present is that by being brutally honest about yourself and your reality you can learn to accept and then change it.
As impossible as it may sound, dialysis (in my own case), or most other unpleasant situations, can be reframed as detours, not as personal failures. Your mental models of a situation define how you behave within it – don’t see yourself as being punished but as being given an opportunity to learn about yourself, your life, and your place in the universe. I don’t mean this in a neo-spiritual, woo woo sense, but in a realistic scientifically-based and rational way. If you stop simply reacting to what is happening to you and attempt to learn what you can from your situation, it’s still possible to make positive progress wherever you are. In my own case, I have learned to turn twelve hours a week of dialysis from a punishment of sorts into a great opportunity for learning by simply reading and writing with purpose and directing my mind in a structured manner (check out Personal Revolutions, the book I wrote on dialysis). Though changing your thoughts and beliefs about your situation is obviously more easily said than done, I hope to use this blog as a vehicle for at least getting people to think about these ideas if they want to. If what I have to say helps, then great, and if it doesn’t, well that’s too bad.
The areas that have helped me to come to terms with my situation have been the areas of practical philosophy, especially ideas of the ‘good life’ via Schopenhauer and the Stoics, coaching, goal setting, positive psychology, counselling, systems thinking, and various other topics besides. I have also developed a healthy interest in exercise and nutrition. These schools of thought and ideas have allowed me to contextualise my experience in a way that can be shared with other people. My intention is to seek like-minded thinkers or those that wish to learn about these ideas and to create a support network for those that wish to live the best possible lives in the short amount of time that quantifies each life human lifetime.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the blog!