Unlisted: Finding a Detour: The Importance of Adaptation

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On Monday and Wednesday, I talked about dealing with roadblocks and setting personal goals, particularly with a chronic illness. Today, I wanted to share some of my roadblocks and how I’ve dealt with them both MS-related and not. What has helped me is recognizing those roadblocks and finding ways to adapt around them.

It seems fairly obvious that working out detours and rerouting one’s life path is the best option, but I have run into plenty of people who stall and stagnant when they come across a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Full disclosure, there have been times where I’ve balked at a roadblock and took longer than I care to admit to work around it.

I am not judging or criticizing this stalling. Everyone has their own path to take and how that journey is made varies.  The important thing is to eventually move forward so you can heal if this is a particularly troublesome roadblock.

What we bring to our experiences impacts how we deal with our journey. Beginning the process of self-awareness and self-reflection can help move you forward.

Encountering a Roadblock

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize a roadblock even when it’s right in front of us. I find that I can be in the middle of a task and get stymied by a roadblock and not even realize what’s happening.

Prior to my diagnosis, my unseen roadblock was MS, manifesting as the fatigue and depression that comes living with MS day-to-day. There was no way of knowing that my lack of motivation, direction, and inability to get everything done came down to my brain and spine coping with several lesions.

I assumed that my listlessness in graduate school had everything to do with the toxic environment, lack of support, and a general not knowing what I wanted to do with my life post-graduation. The job market was not favorable and I wasn’t a competitive enough candidate for a job in academia like I wanted. I felt nothing but depression, self-doubt, and stuck.

There were plenty of days where I would just come home and pass out on the bed too tired to do anything meaningful professionally or personally. I found those days particularly discouraging.

I had a health roadblock that I didn’t even recognize until I could not see out of one eye. Once I received my diagnosis I was able to figure things out, but I was not in a space to look for a detour. It took having Jai for me to finally get into a place to make meaningful changes.

I use this example because there may be roadblocks in your own life that you aren’t even aware of and therefore do not know that a detour is necessary. I understand that this is very nebulous, but if you feel stuck in your life, burnt out and unable to move forward, then perhaps you are experiencing an unidentified roadblock.

The trick will be to figure out what that might be.

Adaptation & Acceptance

I’ve talked about the struggle after my diagnosis and learning to come to a place of personal acceptance. Approaching roadblocks are similar: you need to take the time to recognize them, grieve if it’s insurmountable, and find a way to either bust through or work around them.

I found in the multitude of roadblocks encountered in my life that maintaining a forward momentum helps keep me from growing too discouraged even if it wasn’t the path I wanted to take. In many, if not all of these cases, the new path led me down a greater adventure or provided a positive opportunity that I may not have gotten if I continued to go the way I initially wanted.

When I was younger, I wanted to go to one college for my undergraduate education. I applied, waited, and hoped for the best. Judgment day came and I was not accepted. I laid down on my bedroom floor and had a good cry, but decided to apply to a different college in a different location that afternoon. I was accepted to this new school and got to spend two years in an urban setting that I would not have experienced at the first college. My time in this urban city prepped me for being comfortable to move South and therefore allowed me the opportunity to meet Ash.

My life’s direction changed for the positive because I encountered that rejection and had to take a detour. Sure, I don’t know what would have happened if I did end up going to the original school. Something equally wonderful, but the truth is I do not know because it does not matter. Playing the game of “what if’s” is fine provided you don’t get so distracted by it that it leaves you stuck in place.

With a chronic illness or condition that leaves you feeling stuck, it can be very hard to see through the roadblock for a positive let alone a detour. But once you get around that roadblock you may find that it worked out for the better.

I’ve expressed gratitude for my illness because it provided me with the much-needed clarity for getting my life the way I always wanted. I honestly do not believe I would have made these life changes if I was healthy. And like with the “what if” game, it does not matter.

It’s going to be Okay

Roadblocks are frustrating, especially when it’s your illness holding you up. You cannot control the nature of your illness, the symptoms, the attacks, or even the trajectory beyond a certain point. That’s why when it comes to dealing with these blocks it’s important to say, “well this isn’t working, so I might as well find something that does.”

It may not work out on the first try, it may take a while for you to figure out what exactly works. That’s okay. Embracing patience and the current moment will help in those difficult moments. Treating yourself to self-compassion helps too.

There isn’t one easy solution for dealing with roadblocks. What works for me to get out of my ruts may not work for you. But the most important thing is find a way around your block.

It might be through, as in not taking life’s “no” for an answer; but it may also be looking to see what other options are available. In the middle of it it might seem overwhelming, but when you look back and see where you are, you may find something to celebrate and be proud of.

It’s all up to you to say “it’s going to be okay.”

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Featured photo credit: 35mm on Unsplash

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