Three years ago this fall, I took a position coaching a high school golf team that has provided me great pleasure to this day. I agreed to the position because I love golf, I love working with kids, and I knew that my own child would be joining the team years down the road, which actually will be this year. I share this story because as summer has arrived many of us who have been diagnosed with vasculitis or other physical or medical conditions cannot participate in the activities we have come to love. For me, it was competing on the golf course. For others, it may be riding a bike, fishing, playing at the park, running, swimming, or any activity for that matter.
What I have learned in my own journey is that for any of us who have physical or medical limitations, that we need to find replacements, both of the activity itself and the emotion associated with it. Not an easy task, but able to be accomplished if creative enough. I often wonder if my taking the coaching position set me up for this diagnosis, as I have learned to use teaching and mentoring as a way to replace the passion I used to experience while playing the game. During the early months of my diagnosis when I no longer could play the game I enjoyed, I began dabbling in photography and now I take pictures of golf course landscape and friends and family playing.
What I encourage anyone who has these types of limitations is to focus more on what “I can do” versus “what I am now unable to do.” The former will lead to satisfaction, enjoyment, and feelings of control in the midst of uncertainty, and the latter will lead to increased levels of frustration, sadness, and /or depression. For those of us who endured an awful snow ridden and bitter cold winter, the summer months can and should provide some respite. Of course, none of us with a diagnosis asked for this, nor did any of us anticipate the types of effects these conditions cause. However, do not let your limitations define the pleasure and enjoyment of the summer, but rather let your abilities, strengths, and current assets guide you through the next few months of fun.
Dr. Jeffrey Fishbein is a licensed clinical psychologist and a partner in the clinical practice of Drs. Gault, Fishbein, and Associates and also as a sport psychologist for the Chicago White Sox professional baseball organization. He has been diagnosed with non-systemic microvasculitis with multiple neuropathies. You can read his full story here. He writes a regular column addressing different aspects of mental health and psychological well-being for members of the vasculitis community.