“I see my body in a whole new way”
Getting a chronic diagnosis can be very daunting. For Lisa Lundqvist, it was difficult to feel like her body was no longer functioning. As life slowly began to return to normal, she found important new perspectives which gave her new insights into her ability to control the present and be grateful for what she has.
How did it start?
It was a disaster when it all happened. When I look back, I feel really sad. I had such incredible pain, but I understood nothing. My body was just completely wrong. It started after a spinning session and I felt got worse and worse. First, it affected one leg, then it spread to my ankles, wrists, elbows and eventually almost my entire body. I couldn’t move. I struggled to even get out of bed after having been completely active in the past. I had a hard time just doing all the everyday things you take for granted. I lost weight, even though I was eating as usual. It felt like my body was in a state of shock.
I remember feeling so bad I couldn't walk around at my job; I was just stuck at my desk. Finally, after many visits to the health center and physiotherapists, I finally got in touch with a doctor who referred me to the rheumatologist.
When I got my diagnosis and started taking my medication I was much better compared to how I’d felt before. Life was slowly coming back. I changed my diet and started thinking more about what my body might need to recover and for me to feel better. The things I could do, I did. I tried spinning, which I loved, but at first, it was not possible. But then I slowed down and I could start spinning again. I liked other things too. I bought more dresses than ever and ate the food I liked. Having felt so bad had really affected me: I was really learning to take care of myself and find new ways to do things.
Name: Lisa Lundqvist, 44 years
Occupation: Head of digital media, consumer goods companies in organic food, health food and consumer health.
Leisure: Exercise, travel and discovering new things
Diagnosis: Rheumatoid arthritis
How are you feeling now?
I sometimes feel my body is brittle, in some way. It feels like I'm affected by things more easily. I must focus on what makes me happy and what I can do, both the small and the big. Otherwise, I'm fine. For me, it’s about regaining mobility and strengthening my body. But I feel like I’m getting back to normal, I feel more recovered. I also got back to my normal weight as I started to feel better. I really feel like my body is happy again.
What has been important in helping you feel good?
I've been through a lot of different stages. The important thing has been to not focus on the disease, but rather to find the mental strength just to keep on with life. I need to be in situations where I feel good. That was important when I got sick, and it’s still important today. I need to focus on what makes me happy, and find the strength in what I can do.
I got my dog, Romeo, when I was in a phase where I had extreme fatigue. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy to be tired all the time, and I had no one who could help me out. It felt so good that Romeo showed up: with him, I have to go out into the fresh air and get my body going even though I feel tired. He really helps me in many ways.
Do you think and feel any different to how you used to?
I feel my whole perspective on life has become clearer. I look at my body in a whole new way. Not being able to do things with your body for a long time is so strange and surreal. Then I got it back, even if it is a slightly different package. I have never loved it as much as I do now.
When I think about it, I am struck with overwhelming gratitude. I like every finger. My legs can work the spinning machine again. I take the stairs up to my apartment, just because I can. I look back to the time when I couldn't get out, couldn't go anywhere. I will never take my body for granted again. Everything it can do is fantastic. That's really how it feels.
What made you realize these insights?
I think I feel like this because for a while I was stripped of something. To lose your body, that it suddenly felt different. And that when it was at its worst, nothing worked. I couldn't walk; I could barely move. It hurt so much. I was literally stripped of everything that I am.
I think this experience has shown how strong I am. I know that things happen in life: I might get another illness, people leave, things happen at work. But right now, I know I can cope. There is a time now and there is a time that’s gone. Everything I've learned along the way is great.
I think it is so important to know that there is a tomorrow, wherever you are in your journey. You will get through this situation, and you will also come out a different person. You will learn something that is part of a larger perspective. I can literally say that now, as I do my spinning workouts I think "now I want to cry". I want my legs to hang on, my heart to hang on. It works!.
I get questions from people who say, “How are you? How can anyone live with this?” I say, “I do." I know I have a chronic diagnosis and that it is in my body. But I have control over it now. I think that is the important thing. I often think that we can actually control a lot, especially in the here and now.
I have begun to understand what the word gratitude actually means, in some very strange way. I almost feel that this has given perspective to so much else that has happened in my life. Of course, I wish I didn't have this condition. But I'm grateful for what I've learned from it. You see the little things in a new perspective. It has been a great experience. First the traumatic, when the illness came, and then getting to where I am today. It is a journey unlike any other. For some, it takes longer, for others it might be faster. We will encounter setbacks, but it will be OK. You can do this.