It Can Always Get Better

“How often do you have to come for chemo?” The woman hooked up in the chair next to me–a grandmother with a kind, yet tired face –asked me about two hours into my transfusion.

I looked up at the tubes attached to my arm, blood slowly and mechanically dripping down into the IV.

“No chemo for me,” I said, nodding my head up at the machine. “Blood transfusion because my hemoglobin was dangerously low.”

I was almost embarrassed, humbled by not only that woman, but the other people in the room who were also getting their chemo. I was lucky. I was sick, but I didn’t have cancer.

It could always be worse.

At this time last year I didn’t have a job.

Even though I dreaded returning to one I had gone to every day for seven years, that loss of security seemed like the end of the world. Every day was spent frustratingly looking for work, dealing with the unemployment agency, and trying not to let what was already a years-long deep depression completely sweep me up in the current.

I would lie in bed those unemployed months and make bargains with myself and some unknown higher power. “If I can get this job, I promise I’ll get the help I need for my (insert depression, exercise addiction, OCD here) and really make those big changes.”

“OK. That one didn’t work out. If I can get this job, I promise I’ll stop (insert maladaptive behavior), finally gain those needed 30 lbs, and dig myself out of this hole.”

Then eventually I landed a job I couldn’t have written up more perfectly for myself, one that’s the complete opposite of everything that made my last job so miserable. On even my worst work day, I always tell myself, “Remember how things were. Remember how grateful you are that this happened.”

Things could always be worse.

Yet many days are still a struggle. All those promises I made to myself, all those changes I no longer had an excuse to make are still there. For awhile, the newness and excitement of the job did distract me a bit. Then the OCD got worse, the fog got a little bit thicker. I made up new excuses to distract myself from the problems and continued to literally run myself to the ground, my body taking the brunt of my mind.

I conveniently ignored the signs, but I couldn’t ignore my mom crying about how sick I looked, the nights in my bed when my heart felt like it would either flutter out of my chest or stop, and then the phone call that I had to go in for two blood transfusions as soon as I could.

Sitting in that hospital chair, I had time to do nothing but think.

Everything I had been given could be taken away–the job, the freedom, even my life–because I refused to admit that I couldn’t outthink my physical and mental illness, that doing the same things wouldn’t land me in the same exact place.

Where it landed me was in the hospital with an IV running blood through my arm for eight hours, making small talk with a woman who had been dealt a deadly illness she was valiantly fighting. I again made all those same promises to myself that this time things would be different, that this is what it would take to finally get myself healthy.

And then when I was feeling better a couple of days later, I went back to the gym and all my old habits.

After all, it could be worse, right?

“Well yeah, it’s not cancer and it could be worse,” said my doctor a week later when I gave her my tired excuses. “But not much.”

There it was in black in white in the form of my lab results. There it was coming out of the mouth of a professional who I couldn’t negotiate with like I could–and do–with myself, which is why I’m rambling here.

Because the fact is you can’t negotiate yourself out of physical or mental illness–the latter of which is often suggested to be a choice. After all, if we know what we can do to “get out of it” but still engage in behaviors, that means we’re weak, right? I mean, we have so many good things in our lives that it’s ridiculous there are days that taking a shower is a major accomplishment.

Well, it’s not a choice.

Sickness is sickness, and I’m pretty sure that if we could get hooked up to a machine and have an IV drip some cocktail cure-all for mental illness into our arms, most of us would sign up in a second, no questions asked. It’s not that easy–nothing about it is easy. Wishful and willful thinking alone can’t cure cancer, low hemoglobin, depression, addiction, etc. or the guilt that sometimes accompanies these.

So for me–and for you–here’s a reminder.

It’s not a choice to be sick, but it’s a choice to admit that you are.

It’s a choice to do what you need to do to be healthy, even if it’s really painful in so many ways.

It’s a choice to reach out for support.

It’s a choice not to feel guilty.

I don’t know if I believe that myself most of the time, but I don’t want to know just how much worse things can be.

Because while it’s a choice to believe that “it could be worse,” it’s also a choice to believe that it could always be better.


It can always get better.

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29 responses to “It Can Always Get Better

  1. “It can always get worse,” can be the typical excuse our brains make to keep us in the shit. The phrase often goes hand in hand with, “it isn’t that bad,” “at least its not _____,” and culminating in, ” see? I’m fine.” Yes, counting your blessings and being positive is one thing, an important thing! But that tool can be misconstrued into a false sense of “okay-ness.” You’ve really got a handle on recognizing that Abby!

    I’m here when you make that choice for support.

    “And do you feel scared – I do
    But I won’t stop and falter
    And if we threw it all away
    Things can only get better”

  2. Hugs to you. Thank you for trusting us enough to share your story with us. It is certainly one that alllllll of us could use hearing.

  3. Oh, Abby. It really can get better, and I hope it does. xo

  4. It does and you are so right to show how and why people can hope.

  5. Abby, the last line of this entry truly says it all. It’s so hard to remember that. It is so hard to find hope past the pain abd the tired. Believe it or not, it’s a blessing that you have doctors telling you that you’re sick. I’ve been going to doctors, so many doctors for the last four years that have told me I’m just fat and lazy, or that it’s all in my head. That the pain I have is psychosis, not real. Only recently have I had test results come back to suggest that I have multiple sclerosis, yet my doctor still don’t believe in the pain I experience because it’s not what most people experience Who have MS. What time I don’t spend curled in the fetal position trying to control my pain, I spent trying to convince Doctors that it’s real. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve doubted myself because no one else believed me. I understand what it’s like to be in denial of how bad things really are, and trying to push past it anyway. I can’t even work full-time anymore, and it’s looking less and less like I’m going to be able to work at all. But… Light shines the brightest in the dark. I try really hard to keep your perspective. One of joy, humor, positive thinking and the belief that it can always be worse, but it can also always be better.

  6. Thank you! Thank you so much!

  7. Thank you for the encouragement, it is so bold to realize that you’re right – it’s a choice to admit I’m sick and need help. Even if others don’t see it, don’t realize it, don’t understand it. Mental illness is an ILLNESS. Thank you for sharing with us, and I hope your better days show up this week!! 🙂

  8. I’m praying that the help you need reaches out to find you.

  9. Amazing. Love reading your daily funnies, but enjoyed this real peak into your life as well. Brave.

  10. Comfort knowing your aren’t alone…for us and for you!

  11. Ah, Abby, two years ago I thought I was dying. Now I’m happy to be hooked up to an IV for half a day every 8 weeks. And like you did, I look around at the others getting IV therapies – probably have them getting chemotherapy – and I’m grateful that all I have is colitis. Even when the colitis resulted in my having to have two consecutive transfusions, it was still better than the alternative. And it did get better.

    I’m glad you found a new job, but don’t run yourself into the ground. You always have to take care of yourself first so that things can get better.

    • I’m so sorry you are having health issues, but at least you have answers and solutions. It always helps to give up that control. As for work, I’ve had the job for nine months and I couldn’t be more grateful for my good fortune. It doesn’t fix what’s been there so long, but working from home does give me the freedom to try and fix those things.

  12. Abby, thanks for bringing home all the truths, the humor in the every day stuff that fills our lives. And thanks for sharing your life with us, all of it. Best wishes for you in 2016. I’m love seeing you first in my Facebook feed, and I’m keeping you first in my prayers tonight, for strength and for continued inspiration for your path.

  13. sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms

    It was a major shift in mind set that sent these words out to us. That step is so impressive and things will get better as a result. Ellen

  14. “Because while it’s a choice to believe that ‘it could be worse,’ it’s also a choice to believe that it could always be better.” Love that, and I hope you continue to remember that things can get better. You know I’m here whenever you need a reminder. ❤

  15. This hits home in a lot of ways. Thank you for choosing to be frank and to share what you’re going through. It means a lot to many people who maybe aren’t so brave or quite ready to take the next steps they need to get help.

  16. “it’s also a choice to believe that it could always be better.” …It’s also a choice to take the steps you need. You’ve already taken the first ones…writing this post among them. I have faith in you. Chin up, girl. You’ve got this.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this. I know how hard it can be to share your story, and I admire the courage it took to do just that.

    You’re right, it’s never a choice to be sick.

    It is a choice to stay sick though instead of reaching out for help. I very much hope you seek the help you need, and I’m here for you. Sending hugs and hummus.

  18. Very insightful…thank you!

  19. It was a major shift in mind set that sent these words out to us. That step is so impressive and things will get better as a result. Ellen

  20. the scribbling writer

    I also suffer from anxiety and depression. Though the help that I needed was not forthcoming. I had to really pull myself up from the darkest places of my mind. As sick as this sounds it is so comforting to know there are others out there that are going through the same thing. Feeling alone is the worst part of all it. Things do get better, they do and I am very glad you wrote this. I wish I had this type article to read a few months ago when I was at my darkest. Great post! And I love your blog! Great Stuff!

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