"Where there is creativity, there is hope." ~ Donna Karan

Dreaming Big Despite Chronic Illness

by - Friday, September 14, 2012

"Most people think too small. The person of faith always thinks big". {Unknown}
At the beginning of the year, I decided upon a theme for this blog - Dreaming Big. I had planned to focus my writing around my dreams and hopes for the future. I was determined to fight for old dreams and find new ones. This was the year that I would refuse to dream and think small.
The plan was to write about this year's theme a few months into the year, but as you know, that didn't happen. I got sidetracked with other writing topics, and it turns out it was a good thing I was. This topic just so happens to tie in well with the Invisible Illness Awareness Week theme, Visible Hope.
This year I've been focusing on dreaming big, fat, crazy dreams. Chronic illness can take everything, but it can't stop me from dreaming. Some of my dreams overwhelm me because they seem impossible and unrealistic for someone dealing with a shopping list of symptoms, but I am tired of being realistic and bound by my limitations.
I hate being told that I can't do something or that what I want will never become reality. It's true that many of my dreams are so far out of my reach, and some of them may never come true, but it's nice to dream. Even though I'm limited in what I can do and achieve right now, I can still dream. Dreaming gives me hope and inspiration.
I have always been a dreamer. When I was a child, I wanted to be all sorts of things when I grew up. One year I wanted to be a surgeon, which sounds silly when I remember the time when I was so grossed out and horrified after seeing my best friend's forehead spilt open after she smacked into a wood wall in the playground at school. I was so distraught that I too ended up in sick bay. Other times I wanted to be a massuist, or a chef, which are much more appropriate dreams considering my academic results!
When I finished primary school I settled on studying to be a kindergarten teacher. It was halfway through high school when I did placement at a kindergarten for a week, that I knew I didn't want to do anything else - it was my dream career. So, throughout high school I worked tirelessly to ensure that my grades were good enough to get me where I wanted to be. And I almost got there. I got offered a place at university. Thrilled, I accepted it, but then chronic illness took over my life.
I couldn't concentrate in lectures, and walking even short distances would cause my legs to cramp up. After walking around campus, my feet felt like they were swollen even though they didn't appear to be so. Before long, a trip to university had me in bed for a week, and I was struggling to keep up with the work load. I had to make the tough decision to quit for the sake of my health.
I was understandably devastated. I spent the rest of that year grappling with depression as a result of my diagnosis. After starting on medication, I did try going back to university a couple of times, but my course was too demanding. This only sent me spiraling further into depression, and for the first time in my life things looked bleak and hopeless. No one could tell me when I'd get better, and my doctors tried to convince me to consider a different and easier career that didn't require as much energy.
I thought I'd never want to do anything else, and I didn't think that it would be possible to dream again. But as the years have past by, I have discovered talents and passions that I never knew I had. If I had finished my studies, and started working in the early childhood field, these talents and passions would have lain dormant.
Chronic illness has been a real blessing in disguise. It has taught me to dream bigger, better and stronger than I ever have before. I thought I was happy with my plans - teaching kindergarten kids, getting married and living the white picket fence dream, but I desire so much more than that now. And I really believe that God has far greater plans for my life, beyond my wildest dreams. Some of my dreams are amazing God given dreams, and had He not placed them in my heart, they wouldn't exist.
Some people think that I've gone stark raving mad when I share some of my dreams. Go ahead, call me crazy, I'm not going to stop dreaming because some of these dreams will become reality one day.
Behold, my kick arse dreams and desires:
Write and publish a book. Becoming a published author is what I am aiming and striving for. This blog is good practice and a great stepping stone. Ever since I was diagnosed I knew that I wanted to write a book about my experience. A detailed account of my creative journey through chronic illness and my road to recovery - beginning to end. Nothing left out, and jammed packed full of journals. I know exactly how I'd like to write the ending (it's really clever if I do say so myself!), but obviously, my story is nowhere near finished just yet, and I am not feeling well enough to sit down and produce a book at the moment. Some days I doubt my abilities to write, but I know I've got a book in me. Even though I am troubled by brain fog right now, I do make plans for it. I often think of the things I'd like to include, the cover design, the layout and so on. I can picture my book in bookstores already. It's going to be amazing, and it's going to be a bestseller. Crazy dream, right?
Go on speaking tour. This dream scares me. Totally freaks me out. Public speaking is not my thing. I'm pretty timid and quiet, and I suck at small talk. I know it would appear the opposite on this blog, but believe me, I'm not that talkative and open with people I don't know that well in person, and I hate being the centre of attention. The thought of having an audience starring at me makes me feel a little panicky. So, why have that dream? Well, I really feel that's what God is calling me to do. Speak at churches, have Chronically Creative conferences and pack out auditoriums, talk about my book, run workshops and seminars. Crazy is an understatement for this dream.
Have a handmade boutique store. I walked past a gift shop earlier this year and they sold some really gorgeous handmade cards. I suddenly had this overwhelming desire to have a little boutique, featuring stunning cards and stationary that I will somehow make. This seems stupid considering I am struggling to make any cards as of late. Probably not one of my most realistic dreams, but to hell with realistic, I say. This dream may just remain a dream, but you never know, right?
Attend a BlogHer conference. Ever since I began blogging, I have wanted to go. Badly. I'm thinking about next year's conference. Chronically Creative. Chicago. Squeeeal. It terrifies me though. I've never been overseas, nor have I travelled alone in my own country. If I can somehow tee up a travel buddy, or someone who can pick me up from the airport, I'll seriously be considering it. If fatigue is the way it has been next year, I'll be staying put though.
Buy a new car. I've got my license, so now my dream is to own a brand spanking new car. I bought a used car before I even got my license (to practice in), I've had it for a few years now and it's starting to show its age. The plan is to save hard and buy the car I've always wanted when I get off p-plates which is still a couple of years away. It will be a celebration - driving is a big thing for me. The fact that I finally got my licence and have been driving by myself for over a year now is a huge victory. It hasn't been an easy feat with chronic fatigue.
Get a degree.  I don't want to give up on my dream of getting my degree in early childhood education. I am focusing on getting myself better first, that's why I'm trying graded exercise therapy with an exercise physiologist. It may take me much, much longer to get to my goal, but I believe I can get there.
Start a creative chronic pain ministry. The work that Lisa Copen has done with Rest Ministries inspires me to want to do similar things here in Australia. I'd so love to see proper support and bible study (tailored to those living in pain) groups set up in churches, so people with a chronic illness know that they have a place to go to and that they are able to make their needs known. Running free creative workshops would be pretty cool too. I'd also like to write some devotionals and resources that churches can use to encourage those living with disability/illness. Goodness, these dreams just keep getting crazier. Clearly, God is going to have to provide money and financial support from somewhere.
Own a cupcake bakery. I'm talking a fully fledged bakery full of cupcakes, muffins and slices. It seems silly considering that piping twelve cupcakes exhausts me, but I'm going to go ahead and dream anyway. I've been busy dreaming up some pretty delicious flavours. Catering for functions, parties and weddings would be pretty darn amazing. I have doubted this dream a lot, but after tasting cupcakes from a local cupcake shop (which seemed to be quite popular) that were dreadfully disgusting, I am confident that my bakery would be a success.
Travel. I'd like to see the Eiffel Tower one day, especially at night. It's what inspires me to dream big. Experiencing Disneyland would be pretty great as well. Travelling around the world to meet blog readers and just hang out is the thing I'm most looking forward to.
Create a creative website and chat forum. I'm thinking a really cool place for those with illnesses to come hang out, be inspired by each other, get creative tips, share their crafts, and find helpful resources. Kind of like Tip Junkie, but bigger. I know there are a few out there that are somewhat similar, but I do have very different ideas. A girl can dream, right?
Run marathons. I enjoyed running before I became ill, and I never had any desire to run marathons. Now running is out of the question, but it's going to be possible again one day. To run and raise funds for CFS research is the ultimate dream.
And these are only some of my dreams. Yep, I'm dreamin' big baby!
What are your dreams?
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