Even when growth is difficult, I need to push myself to do it

I'm driven to improve my quality of life and myself, but it often demands effort

Dunstan Nicol-Wilson avatar

by Dunstan Nicol-Wilson |

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I’m constantly going through physical, spiritual, and mental growth. Removing or changing learned behavior and patterns, for example, has allowed me to become a better version of myself. However, I’ve been walking with limits on my body for years because of sickle cell disease, which subconsciously has led me to resist change and exploring outside my comfort zone.

These physical and emotional limits, I know, are designed to protect me. As I grow older, I recognize my body isn’t as flexible as it used to be, so it’s easier to be less active — especially as I’m so easily fatigued by the strains of life. Mentally and spiritually, I’ve still got a lot of healing to do. The years of crises and unhealed wounds have left their scars and taken a toll, and it’s draining work to reflect on them.

So how do I let go of the weight and break this resistance? Where do I begin the self-work necessary for a better quality of life? How do I improve physically without having a crisis or exacerbating my fatigue? How do I mentally enhance without revisiting some of my old triggers? How do I heal spiritually without fear or judgment?

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Over the past two years, I’ve pushed myself in several physical challenges, including fitness, swimming, and volleyball. I’ve been hoping to prove that I can do whatever I want. Only some of these activities have been successful or long-lived, though. Usually, it ends with me having a crisis and quitting — or worse, the challenge remains just a thought.

Exercise and nutrition are essential to coaxing the body to heal itself. What’s worked for me is a routine that’s easy to stick to. Then I can build on that routine, gradually advancing in it so my body has time to adapt to a new normal.

Currently, I’m sticking to a minimum of two weekly visits to the gym and daily walks. It’s not the most complex challenge, but the step-by-step approach has been beneficial to me. I’ve experienced a reduction in my daily chronic pain, and I’m entering my best physical condition of the past few years.

I recognize that after each crisis, I feel a little bit of residual, mental hurt. Regular talk therapy sessions have challenged me to identify patterns and behaviors developed in my childhood that trigger that hurt. For me, one pattern has been my people-pleasing habit — not being able to say no, not wanting to be a burden, downplaying my pain.

These themes, at times, can be overwhelming to address, as they involve years of experiences that I have to rethink and unpack. Understanding the impact of sickle cell on my mental health and behavior patterns encourages me to think differently. On this journey, I’m rewiring how I interact with the world and foster positive relationships.

My faith has played a big part in my resilience in life with sickle cell. It’s given me a positive sense of self to counterbalance the negative feelings from my life’s challenges. I experienced unexpected healing while advocating for sickle cell support in a church; since then, my spiritual journey has grown even more over the years.

To believe beyond my assumed capabilities gives me that extra edge in pushing through difficult times with sickle cell. Part of what it means to live in this world is a desire to learn, to be a little better. As I build positive patterns and behaviors, I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen already. I just needed to push to start.

Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.


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