“Don’t let your problems get you down, or you’ll miss out on life.” Mattie Stepanek
There are millions of people who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses or other disabling conditions. If you are one of these millions, you have likely experienced a variety of overwhelming emotions including stress, anxiety, anger, grief, and depression. You may feel that you have been cheated or that life is unfair. You might even be wondering if are doomed to live a life of disappointment and frustration. The answer to that is a resounding NO! You can learn to cope with your condition. In fact, you can even learn to thrive and live a full and happy life.

Think of Mattie Stepanek, a young boy with Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy, who accomplished more in his thirteen years than many who live long and healthy lives. Mattie was wheelchair bound and required a ventilator to help him breathe. Despite his disability, Mattie published 7 books – one of which was coauthored with President Jimmy Carter - and touched millions of people with his beautiful spirit.

How does someone overcome a disability to live a full and happy life? Is it something unique to a few inspiring people or can anyone learn to thrive and overcome such obstacles? Everyone can choose a life of happiness and meaning despite even the most difficult circumstances. In order to live well and thrive with your disability, you will need to become an active participant in your health care, learn to accept your condition, choose an attitude of gratitude, and follow your passion.

There is no doubt that dealing with health problems can be overwhelming and frustrating at times. Being an active participant in your health care will help you feel more in control. Learn as much as you can about your condition from the internet, medical professionals, and support groups. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions regarding your health care. Working in partnership with your health care providers will help assure that you get the best care possible. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and/or get second opinions if you are not satisfied with your diagnosis or treatment. Trust yourself – you are the expert on your own body.

As you put together your health care team, don’t forget to include a therapist or coach to help you process your feelings so that you can move through your emotional pain. You may also want to incorporate massage, acupuncture, or other integrative health practices into your health care regimen. Remember that it is important to address your whole person (mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual) to enhance well-being.

Being an active participant in your health care also means making self-care a part of your daily routine. Meditation, imagery, hypnosis, or other relaxation techniques can help you relax your body and quiet your mind so that you can connect with your inner resources. Find a technique that feels right and practice everyday. This type of daily routine will help you connect with your internal source of peace and happiness, as well as, help you cultivate an attitude of acceptance.

Acceptance does not mean that you give up or throw in the towel. Acceptance simply means that you accept what is true for you in this moment so that you can stop fighting and resisting your illness. When you stop fighting, you find peace. You also find that you have more energy available to enhance your overall well-being - now that you are not wasting energy with the struggle. Some people find that when they shift to acceptance, their health condition improves. However, physical healing is not necessarily the goal – the goal of acceptance is peace and sometimes physical healing is a byproduct of the process.

Accepting your physical condition does not mean that you define yourself by your illness or disability. A great example of this is Kyle Maynard (a champion wrestler without elbows, knees, hands or feet). Kyle does not define himself as a man limited by congenital amputation and, as a result, he is thriving and living a full and happy life doing things that seem almost impossible for someone with his condition. It is important that you recognize that you are not your illness. You are much bigger than that – you are a whole person with many gifts, talents, and skills. Your limitations may be a part of your life, but they do need to define you.

While it is important to recognize your limitations, do not dwell on them. Shift your attention to those things you can do. Start as small as you need to and allow yourself to build your new life one brick at a time. Even if you are bed-ridden or wheelchair bound, you can always find things that you can still do. If you have trouble identifying anything, start with the idea that you can still love others and receive love. Focus on this and feel the joy of giving and receiving love. Allow yourself to feel gratitude for the things you can do. As you build this attitude of gratitude you will experience more happiness and satisfaction with your life.

As you continue along your path from surviving your disability to thriving with it, you will want to examine your experience for seeds of opportunity and growth. No matter how terrible or devastating the illness, there are always opportunities to learn and deepen your personal growth. However, if you judge your illness as devastating and believe that it has ruined your life, you will close yourself off from the opportunities. Many people with serious illnesses or disabling conditions come to see their condition as a blessing in disguise – as a gift that helped them to appreciate life in a new way. Be open and willing to see the silver lining… to appreciate the opportunity and reevaluate your priorities.

Your new attitude and life perspective will lead you to spend more time on activities that you truly enjoy and are passionate about. When you follow your passion, miracles can happen! You can overcome many obstacles that you previously thought were insurmountable (remember Kyle Maynard and Mattie Stepanek). Once you align with your passion, you will find new doors opening to you that were previously unknown or unavailable. Take a risk and follow your passion and express your joy – after all, this is how you begin to thrive again! This is the way to step into a new life filled with happiness and meaning. And, perhaps best of all, living your passion is your gift to the world!

Author's Bio: 

Intent.com is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, Intent.com aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.