Cultivating a growth mindset is a powerful thing. And, it’s a necessary tool if you have an invisible illness. There are so many ups and downs that come with managing a chronic condition, impacting every area of your life. Physical, mental, emotional, social, financial, literally everything. Something that has helped me get through some of the darkest and most challenging seasons with my illnesses is having a growth mindset. This perspective, alongside my faith, helped navigate me to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Developing A Growth Mindset
Owning My Fear
Facing a major surgery isn’t easy. Losing an ovary is scary. Being diagnosed with endometriosis, fibroids, and bipolar disorder within a 2-year span is overwhelming. It’s easy to allow fear to take root when you’re dealing with back-to-back disappointment. And, it can make you feel like you’ve done something wrong. Or, even worse, like you’re a failure and worthless. Learning how to navigate these scary situations and find healthy ways to cope and manage helped so much.
Now please don’t think I’m endorsing a fake optimistic attitude. Absolutely not. I felt all the emotions and accepted them. I cried, I asked why, I was angry and upset, I prayed and struggled. Because I’m human, and it’s normal to feel and express human emotions as you’re dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. But, I refused to stay there and allow bitterness to take root in my heart. I grieved, felt afraid, and then pushed through anyway.
Approaching my illness with this honest yet resilient approach allowed me to look for growth opportunities. How could I overcome the thing that was scaring me? What could I learn from it? And, could I apply what I learned to future situations? What changes could I make to improve? Journaling and self-reflection not only helped me deal with my feelings, thoughts, and emotions. It also helped me dig deeper and become more reflective about what I was experiencing.
Having a growth mindset means you don’t step back from challenges. You face them head-on and learn from them. And, this is the attitude I began to take towards my illnesses. I refused to let them overtake me. For example, having large chocolate cysts meant I couldn’t work out the way I was used to. But, I refused to give up the one thing that made me happy. So, I found alternative workouts that I could do safely. As a matter of fact, I believe that doing these workouts so many months before my surgery helped me recover so quickly.
I also challenged myself to learn all I could about my illnesses and how to manage them. And, whatever wellness and lifestyle modifications I needed to implement, I did. Because of this, I reduced a lot of the chronic pain that I experienced and improved my quality of life. Additionally, tracking my moods and symptoms for my bipolar help me identify hypomanic and depressive episodes. This way, I can use the tools I’ve learned in therapy to manage them or talk to my psychiatrist to adjust medication.
While I never ultimately overcame the pain and inflammation that endometriosis and fibroids caused. I was able to reduce how much of that pain I experienced. Furthermore, I can’t always prevent hypomanic or depressive episodes. I can reduce their severity and impact on my behavior.
As I said, I couldn’t magically make my conditions go away or entirely erase my symptoms. Finding ways to overcome my obstacles helped me find the courage and strength I needed to keep fighting. And, in doing so, I learned so much about myself and have grown as a person.
Accepting Setbacks As New Beginnings
I missed a lot over the past few years because of my endometriosis and the chronic pain it caused. Additionally, there’s a lot that I struggled with due to depressive episodes caused by my bipolar disorder. And, while sometimes it feels like I’m starting from behind. Which in many ways, I am, and it’s ok to acknowledge this. I also don’t let it defeat me or prevent me from going after what I want.
I know that society and the highlight reel of social media make it seem like there are benchmarks or milestones in life. And that we need to hit them to be successful and happy. But it’s not true. If you try to live by others’ standards, you’ll end up empty and frustrated. Because enough is never enough. However, if you focus on being content with who you are and where you are, you adopt an attitude of gratitude. And, doing so helps you to see the opportunity that is all around you.
In reality, the key to overcoming setbacks is to open yourself up to the possibility of life not happening the way you think it should. But instead, partnering with life on a fantastic journey. I know this sounds a little hokey and silly. However, letting go of the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s, and if only was the best thing I’ve done. Because as long as I’m alive, I still have a chance to achieve all that I want to achieve, and so do you!
Realize Life Isn’t About Extremes
Sometimes it can feel like your life has ended because of your illness or condition. It’s easy to slip into the mentality that you’re stuck with a second-rate life since you have a chronic condition. You begin to adopt this all-or-nothing mentality where you believe you can’t accomplish or be who you were pre-illness. And now your life as you know it is over. But, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, you have an invisible illness. And, yes, there’s going to be activities you can’t participate in. Additionally, you may have to make lifestyle modifications or adjustments to accommodate your condition.
However, your abilities, skills, talents, personality, and all the fantastic things that make you well, you are still very much there. You can learn, grow, and flourish. Your life isn’t predetermined, and you’re not some cruel victim of fate. You still matter. Your life still matters. It could just mean that it’s time to pivot in a new direction.
In the end, your ability to adapt and find your purpose determines everything. Choose to move forward despite the diagnosis, despite the flare-ups, and despite the symptoms. So, don’t stop chasing and pursuing your dreams. Of course, listen to your body and prioritize your health when your body needs it. But, don’t let having an invisible illness stop you from conquering the world.
Benefits of A Growth Mindset
A growth mindset’s necessary foundation is a fierce determination to grow, willingness to face your fear, and learning to overcome challenges or setbacks. Additionally, it comprises an eagerness to learn, the ability to see through fear, remain open-minded and learn from your failures.
Applying these principles to learning how to live a fulfilling life with invisible illness means you own your fear and face the negative emotions. This helps you accept your condition and learn how to deal with it mentally and emotionally.
You’ll undoubtedly experience many challenges managing your health, but developing the confidence and resilience necessary to see it through will help. Being diagnosed with an invisible illness will inevitably alter your life plan. But, becoming flexible and letting go of the belief that there’s a timeline for everything frees you up to pursue life with abandon and do what’s best for you.
Lastly, a growth mindset allows you to release the all-or-nothing mentality that can leave you stuck. You’re going to grieve who you were pre-illness, and this is an ordinary and necessary process. However, avoid staying there. Lingering in this mindset will leave you stuck and trapped, believing you’re destined for a second-rate life. Which you’re not. The reality is you can still pursue a quality life with an invisible illness. You may have to pivot and make modifications to accommodate your condition. But, it’s still possible for you to be successful and achieve greatness.