By Liza Zoellick.
We spend so much of our youth trying to acquire independence. We want to get out of our parents’ house and we want to go off to school and we want to learn how to drive. Driving has to be one of the pinnacles of independence. You suddenly have the freedom to go where you want and need to go. You can run to the store and go buy that shirt your mom didn’t want you to buy and, as an adult your car is still an extension of your independence. So, what happens when you can’t drive anymore? Where does the independence go to?
Some time in 2008 I found out I have seizures. To make a long, long, story short, they never found out why or what causes them. They referred to it as undefined seizure disorder. It was a difficult diagnosis. Seizures were something I had always been frightened of because I had a friend who had them and she didn’t have the tonic-clonic ones, that I was aware of, but the absent. I remembered her staring off and I thought she just got bored with talking to me. Now I understood and I was afraid people were not going to understand. Aside from the not understanding part, I was terrified I was going to have a seizure in public and wet myself. I never have, but I heard it was a pretty common thing. I am very socially anxious so this was just another thing to cause a lot of internal panic.
It’s not easy handing over the reins. In the beginning, it’s a novelty to have someone chauffeur you around, but it quickly wears out. I went through a rebellious period where I made up excuses to legitimize my driving. My two oldest had just gotten or were in progress of getting their license. I didn’t feel comfortable. I was working and I didn’t want people having to cart me around back and forth. I didn’t have the resources to take a cab or Uber because they weren’t around! But most of these were excuses, although financially, taking a taxi or uber would have not been worth me working. But I did have a seizure on the road, and I was very lucky that I ended up in a ditch and didn’t hurt anyone. It wasn’t long afterwards that I chose to stop driving and allow my kids to drive me. Soon, my third will have her license and will take over “Driving Miss Daisy,” as I like to call it.
It’s still not easy, even though I made the choice and I wasn’t forced to relinquish my license. It’s a freedom I gave up and a chore that my children have had to pick up because I am not well and I place people at risk on the road. Still, I feel like a burden a lot of the time. It makes me feel less like an adult and it reminds me of being a kid and relying on my parents. When you are 44 you don’t want your 21 year old driving you; you don’t want to be hobbling around on a cane; you don’t want to take a nap after a shower because it saps all your energy; you don’t want to talk about spoons and how many you have left- you just want to be who you were before your health tanked. And I have a secret to tell you. You can.
Finding my Independence, again.
This is the part where I share with you how to take back your independence. And what is funny is that you never really lost it, it just changed. Remember to do a few of these and reclaim your independence.
- Accept Help: Swallow down the pride. Learn to accept your limits and to do this, learn to ask for help. If you can accept some help for the things you can’t do, you can do more of what you can, yourself.
- Create a schedule and goals: Flexibility is key and forgiveness for when you fail to meet the deadline. This is about growth and succeeding and we do not succeed without failure. When you accomplish your goal you will burst with pride.
- Don’t give up: Not on your dreams and not on your goals. You can still achieve anything you put your mind and heart into. You have to find balance.
- Find Silver Linings: Instead of driving around myself I drive around with my daughters. This is great time to spend with them and chat and catch up. See the silver linings in things always.
- Be honest with yourself: When you need help, ask. When you need to cry, cry. When you need extra self-care, take the extra time.
- Open your own doors: Open them to your own independence. Share your talents. Start a blog. Mentor a child. You have so much to give, remember that. Do what you can to show people what you have to offer.
Liza is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: http://lovekarmafood.com. She is a frequent and valued contributor to the National Pain Report.
You can follow Liza on Twitter at @fibrohippiechic
Follow us @NatPainReport