Living as I do with a chronic condition, the term ‘compromised health’ resonates well with me. Picking our way through official terms like ‘disability’ or confronting the stark choice between ‘ill’ and ‘well’ is not an easy path. We find the idea of compromise a more helpful and comfortable one, perhaps because we know that life is full of compromises at many levels – if we have a fixed budget for buying a home, for example, we may have to compromise that extra bedroom to an amazing view.
When considering compromises with our health, we realise that everything is relative and that it is a pointless exercise to compare ourselves to others. We will all be confronted by ill-health at some point or other, and when we adjust to that we see that there is no absolute measure of what a satisfying or full life may be. We all must draw our own parameters and adapt to the physical, emotional or even financial limits that illness may impose. We must find a level of ‘better-being’ that is acceptable and meaningful for us and which enables us to thrive, whether in the short or long term. This does not rule out seeking and undergoing treatments, but ensures that we have a balanced outlook and that we focus on living with the current situation as well as pursuing a ‘cure.’
Although this is an intensely personal process, by looking outwards as well as inwards we quickly come to see others differently. We glimpse how others experience a full life, what gives them satisfaction, what inspires and motivates them. We see that what one person may perceive as a miserable and depressing restriction, may enable another person to go deeper into life and creatively re-discover what fullness and satisfaction mean. We learn that although compromised health situations may be very different – diabetes, cancer, heart problems, mobility problems – yet points of commonality may easily be found, shared and celebrated. We find we do not have to be isolated but that new connections with others may be sources of unexpected joy and richness.
Take a look at Havi Carel’s book for some further inspiration: