I have such a beautiful and comfortable life, but it’s still constantly filled with challenges. Some are intense and overwhelming, some are minor annoyances, and some feel life changing. Whether these are challenging people, situations, or thoughts/feelings, it’s something we all must face and endure. Challenges often actually help us in many ways, too! One of the obvious ways is instilling in us perseverance and a strong, safe sense of self. No matter how bad anything has seemed in my life so far, I’ve survived!
I think one popular tip to handling challenges is to look on the bright side or try to find something that makes them seem less difficult/painful/annoying. This is definitely wonderful advice and a great habit to create. Recently though, I’ve been working on trying to reframe my challenges and it’s amazing how something that seems so negative can actually be the opposite.
In my opinion, looking on the bright side of negative situation includes finding ways that it’s not so bad. Maybe you think of those in worse situations and are in turn more grateful for yours. Maybe you think of how you are learning to practice patience and emotional stability. Maybe you just think however bad a situation is, something equally wonderful is also sure to balance it out at some point. And these are all useful!
Reframing a challenge, however, can ask a little more of us (in terms of effort and self-exploration) but I’ve found it to be immensely more rewarding in certain situations.
For example, my new functional doctor is a MESS. I have been so frustrated/angry that I’ve almost cried once or twice. After paying his office up front for a few appointments and for all of the tests he ordered ($$$), it ended up taking weeks for me to complete them because he gave me no instructions and didn’t fill out any of the paperwork. I had to basically chase him down to get his signatures for certain forms, and he/his office is impossible to get in contact with. He’s cancelled appointments (that I’ve scheduled months ahead of time and Rob & I have arranged our weeks around them) the day before I was supposed to have them, he doesn’t respond to emails/phone calls, and when I went in for my follow up to review the test results, he didn’t have half of them. He didn’t even remember or document what he’d ordered for me and asked if I’d taken photos of the boxes (insert eyeroll here). After having one semi-productive appointment finally, I decided to switch my thyroid Rx at his suggestion. I had to cut the pill in half which was almost impossible, so I asked for a new Rx and had to wait a week until I heard back form him to update it. He miraculously responded within a few days and asked which pharmacy I preferred (score!). I gave him my Walgreens phone/address/fax etc. and guys, I kid you not, he wrote back 3 days later saying he had it filled at a Publix 20 mins from out house.
SO, looking on the bright side of this challenge might be “thank God I am mostly healthy and am not desperately in need of treatment, this is just inconvenient.” Or, I could look at it as experience dealing with difficult people, finding my limits with what I’ll allow, or building confidence by firing yet another doctor to take control of my medical health/experiences.
BUT, after talking about the whole situation with my therapist, I realized that this particular situation was actually SERVING me in a major way.
For my entire life, I’ve had an unpleasant relationship with medical professionals. I’ve felt steamrolled, talked over, talked down to, and at times physically uncomfortable. Time after time, I received inaccurate diagnoses or the conclusion that “there’s nothing wrong with you!” even though I was feeling awful. On the other hand, after discovering my autoimmune diagnosis and finding functional medicine, I developed an unhealthy perspective of needing information and permission from alternative medical pros as well. I consulted AIP experts, nutritionists, online doctors and my first appointment with an IRL functional doc left me elated. We ran tons of tests, had lots of work to do, and had numerous options for supplements and treatment. But none of it worked. Again, I felt like something that was supposed to give me answers left me with none.
And this is where the challenging Dr. E comes in! Guys, he has COMPLETELY knocked medical professionals off of a pedestal for me. At our last appointment, I honestly felt so much more together than him! This has been so oddly satisfying and empowering. You may remember that I was really nervous about Lyme disease and mold testing/results, but my annoyance with Dr. E actually began to overshadow those fears. I started to realize that regardless of what he found/didn’t find, or recommended/didn’t recommend, that it didn’t matter and was essentially up to me. No result I received would change how much progress I’ve already made or how great I currently feel, and honestly, I don’t need much from him at this point other than information and suggestions.
My therapist calls it a break down in the “fix it” model, which is where we feel something is wrong and seek a medical pro to fix it for us. My experience with this doctor is a much more informal interaction, and the progress I’ve made so far has only been because of me. So this challenging situation has actually given me far more than it’s taken (which has been a lot. Patience, time, money, comfort, expectations, etc.) If at some point I feel that the situation is no longer serving me in a way that makes the challenge worth dealing with, I’ll decide to once again move on. And when I do end up looking for my next doctor at some point, it won’t be for him/her to “fix” me (unless I need stitches or something, in which case I will be very willing and grateful to be fixed).
I encourage you to find a situation in your life that feels challenging but might actually be serving you in some way. I’ve taken this perspective and applied it to my relationships (Rob is a handful, haha. And I’m working on trying to have healthier relationships with my family as well). I’ve applied it to the challenge of adopting our newest dog Sage, who is insanely difficult and was basically wild when we got him! I’ve learned so much about myself from that experience as well.
There’s a saying that we’re only given the struggles that we’re capable of handling, but I’d argue that we’re also sometimes given certain challenges to help us grow and become even better.