Articles, Blog

Coping With Chronic Illness and Disability

December 8, 2019

Life doesn’t always happen the way we
want it to and sometimes we have to figure out how we’re going to do it.
Coping with chronic illness and disability today at Live On Purpose TV. Chapter 12 in my book Pathological
Positivity is titled surprise. Surprise what? Surprise happens in life, right?
Have you noticed? You plan on a certain thing happening and then something else
happens instead. You plan on on being healthy and productive into your older
years and then you get a chronic or terminal illness instead. You plan on
your kids out living you and then you bury them instead. You plan on everything
going just as normal today at work and then terrorists fly their planes into
the Twin Towers instead. You see what I’m talking about?
Surprise, it’s not what we were planning on and nobody ever plans on having a
chronic illness or a disability or something very difficult happen to them
in their life. So the question today is, how do you cope with those kinds of
things? How do you deal with some surprise that catches you off guard and
changes the game for you? Okay, now these are kind of heavy issues sometimes but
let’s put a perspective on this that I think is helpful. I just hit my 10 year
anniversary for Live On Purpose radio which is my podcast and I love that
podcast because it gives me an opportunity to interview inspiring
people about their life, about their stories and I have found something that
without exception, every inspiring story I know has a hard part in the middle, has
a surprise that hits somebody out of nowhere
and creates a whole new context for their life so if you’re dealing with a
surprise, that might be good news in a way that you hadn’t considered before.
Can I give you some examples from the podcast? I just grabbed a few randomly
off of my shelf one of my recent interviews at the time of this
particular filming is with Harriet Cavelli, her book is called Living Well Despite Adversity. Oh, interesting, that might be
relevant to our topic today. Harriet interviewed 30 plus individuals
who are struggling with some kind of adversity in their life and there’s a
common theme that arises. In fact, there’s a lot of common themes but I think the
first thing is probably perspective, paradigm, what is the story that we’re
telling ourselves about this surprise that occurred in our life? Are we saying
that it’s a bad thing? How do you know it’s bad? Are you saying it’s a good
thing? Well how do you know it’s good? Pick a position and pick one that serves
you well, that’s one of the common themes that we found. Here’s another one, The Sun
Still Shines by Jodi Orgill Browne. Jodi’s a dear friend of mine who
suffered a brain tumor as a young mom. Surprise! And now she’s doing these
amazing things to inspire people, her newer book is about depression and how
to press on through that kind of an adversity. Wow, inspiring content. How
about this one? One of my favorites, Chad Hymas, what a decent human being that I
have the privilege and honour of knowing. I shared the stage with Chad not too
long ago at an event where we were both presenting a keynote and Chad had the
surprise of a 1-ton bail of hay falling on his head, fracturing
three of the bird brain in his neck and leaving him quadriplegic. Can I just
share something with you that Chad shares in his book and in some of his
keynotes? When he was in the hospital and can you imagine, can you just imagine
waking up to the news you’re a quadriplegic? Well that was
Chad’s reality, that was his surprise and it’s really easy in those circumstances
to let our mind go where Chad’s went for a few moments, I say a few moments, I
don’t know how long it took, thinking of all the things that we can’t do, that we
are no longer able to do, that we’re going to miss out on or that we don’t
get to participate in because now we’re disabled and it was causing a depression,
a depression that could have taken him out and depression is a fatal kind of a
condition for a lot of people because of that and then Chad realized something
that changed the whole game for him and for a lot of people since and that is he
can focus on what he can’t do which is going to cause him to get even more and
more depressed in his quadriplegic state or he can start thinking about what he
can do which changes the whole game and that’s a whole lot more useful when
we start thinking about what we can do because that gives us some options
instead of eliminating things from the menu. That’s a powerful truth, though it
was taught by one of my good friends and Chad is one of the most popular speakers
in the world, he’s got a busier speaking schedule than anybody that I know. His
goal was to become a guide, he thought that meant taking people hunting and
fishing, he’s a whole different kind of guide as he sold thousands of these
books and he speaks on stages to hundreds of thousands of people
inspiring them to have a better life. This is what it’s meant to live well
despite adversity. Oh, how about this one? Shot Happens by Mike Schlappi. Mike’s
lucky, he’s only paraplegic. Do you see how we make these weird comparisons all
the time? Mike was shot in the chest when he was 14 year old kid by one of his
friends and it left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Mike teaches at a really important thing about one of the principles that’s going
to help us to deal with chronic illness or disability or adversity of some kind.
It has to do with the attitude, it’s kind of funny because Mike is a speaker, a
very good speaker who inspires audience, is just like Chad does, Mike wanted to
talk about attitude. Now how cliche is that? Some guy in a wheelchair talking
about attitude. I don’t know if you feel like it’s cliche, I’m in the National
Speakers Association and it happens, okay. Now but Mike wanted a different approach
to it, he didn’t want to be just the guy on the stage and saying, “Oh, have a good
attitude, you know, just think positive.” That’s so cliche and trite. He wanted to
give a different perspective on attitude, he went and talked to a pilot that he
knew. Now attitude is an aviation term, I didn’t even know this, I’m not an aviator
but Mike had a heads up to the fact that this is an aviation
term. What does it mean? Well as he talked to the pilot, the attitude indicator is
probably one of the most important instruments in the cockpit, not altitude,
attitude. What does attitude mean? It’s the
position of that plane relative to the ground or the to the horizon, the
position. Can you see that a nose down attitude is going to head you into the
hard stuff? A nose that up attitude is going to give you altitude that’s
probably an oversimplification but think about attitude
for a minute as a position, it’s not how you feel about stuff, how you’re supposed
to feel about your surprise. Well, human beings feel kind of the way you do when
they get surprised like you did. Attitude is your position toward it, okay.
Distinguish that from feeling, it’s going to make a whole lot more sense, it’s your
position. What position are you taking and can you use this surprise as part of
your inspiring story like these amazing people who have been on my show? I
thought of another one that I wanted to share with you. This is Jenny Roper,
Wiggle Room. This is a fun little book and Jenny was on my show too, her surprise
came from anoxia at birth for I think it was 30 minutes, something like that, it’s in
her book that she suffered a deprivation of oxygen to her brain and left her with
a condition that manifests as cerebral palsy so she wiggles a lot and just like
these other inspiring people, she’s been able to take that and turn it into
something that’s inspiring and that improves other people’s lives. How many
examples of you want? I got a whole shelf full of these. Now what does this do for
you? Choose a position that serves you well about this and first of all, I’m
sorry, I honestly I don’t know what you’re going through because your
surprise is different from mine and I’m sorry that this has happened because
it’s not what you expected but having said that, you can take a position about
this that will not only serve you well but will put you in position
to inspire other people because you’re not the only one who gets this surprised,
are you? And by the way, you know we talk about terminal illness, sorry to burst
your bubble here but nobody gets out of this alive.
That is the predictable exit strategy for every human being on this planet,
we’re all going to leave, we don’t know when or how necessarily
but maybe we could take a position while we’re here that serves us
well and blesses the lives of others. That’s what gives people the power,
the right to inspire other people. Those hard parts, you’ve got this. Wow,
what phenomenal examples of inspiring people and they’re all dealing with
something hard or difficult. I bet you know someone who’s dealing
with something hard or difficult. Share the episode with them.


  • Reply April Phister January 24, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    What timely advise. I was just on the phone with my mom last night who has experienced one of those surprises. This will definitely be shared with her.

  • Reply planestranger June 19, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    "What a decent human being!" doesn't sound like a success in life. All those people you mentioned (and whom nobody have heard about) fought hard and bravely and at the end still failed in the game of life compared to those who didn't spend time and resources to overcome adversity.

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