In 2009 I started to learn about blogging and got to spend some time learning the ropes from Kelly McCausey. That came to a crashing halt in 2010 when I began to experience catastrophic neurological symptoms which led to my diagnosis of cervical dystonia. It would be almost a year before I could sit in front of a computer again. Fast forward a few years to 2013.
Beginning to feel better and become more productive, I read a few time management books and resolved that 2014 would be the year that I blogged intentionally and started a virtual assistant business. I planned to devote daily time to gentle exercise like yoga and walking. I started a Whole30. So many plans.
Then January began and I got sick with one of those nameless viral plagues that makes you feel like crap all over. I had it for a week. It went a way for a few days, came back and didn’t go away. Sore throat, extreme fatigue, muscle aches, GI woes. I told my allergist who is also an immunologist what was going on and he ordered a battery of tests.
A few days after my labs I learned that I had mononucleosis in addition to a sputtering thyroid. At 51, I was a late bloomer.
The familiar fog of depression began to envelope me. I spent a lot of time in bed worrying about a lot of things. I began to feel suffocated, overwhelmed and out of control.
In 2014 when I originally published this post I wrote the following…
I’m not feeling awful all the time. The nausea and brain fog seem to set in during the afternoon so I can still find moments to write and read the Bible and some learning materials. I just have to redeem the good moments to read constructively, find time for some movement (yoga is good for lymph glands) and cook so that I have what I need available during those times I don’t have the energy to cook.
I know this will (hopefully) pass. I’ve heard stories about mono taking as long as eight months to go away. That’s pretty depressing to think about. I’m doing every natural health protocol I can find and I’m thinking about visiting a twelve step meeting. But no matter what I can or can’t do, I can redeem the time with intentional living, even when I’m housebound and stuck in bed.
Later that year, the worst of it did pass and it didn’t take eight months. However, I do still struggle with fatigue and since then seem to be a little more prone to strep and occasional flares. Illness of any type makes my chronic illness symptoms worse but I’m still pushing forward. I’ve started blogging regularly and have some clients.
And to make things even more interesting, in 2018 I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. More spoons to count and one more health condition to manage.
The hard lesson I’ve had to learn over the past few years is how to balance setting goals with my physical reality. I’ve learned that there are still lots of things that I can do, but I have to be careful about over doing it. For me, finding balance while living with chronic illness and the chronic pain that goes with it starts with making spiritual disciplines a priority. That means daily devotions, yoga, mindful living practices and continuous self examination.
5 Tips to Finding Balance Living With Chronic Illness
*Technology – If my symptoms are flaring, there are lots of tasks that I can do from my laptop or tablet while resting in bed. It’s a great feeling to feel like I’m doing something productive instead of vegetating on Facebook or Netflix (nothing wrong with that once in awhile though!)
*Time management – At my stage in life, I should have figured this out by now but I’m still learning. I tend to bite off more than I can chew and get really disorganized which is stressful. Having a bullet journal helps me to see what my priorities are and what is realistic for my energy level on any given day.
*Keep expectations simple – I often feel like I’m on the sidelines watching other families do things that we can’t. But I am learning to find joy in the simplicity of my life and being home much of the time. I keep an eye out for serendipities – little things that bring me joy no matter how I’m feeling like being with my pets and finding quiet things to do with the kids that don’t tax me.
*Communication – Talk to your family and friends about the limitations that you’re living with and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
*Small daily steps – It might be just 5 or 10 minutes a day of intentional movement or household tasks, but it’s still something. I just have to be faithful to take whatever small steps I can and it will take me in the direction I want to go.
Finally, when I catch myself falling into self pity, it’s good to remember that God uses the fires and trials of my life to refine me according to His good purpose. And He promises that the end of the story is a good one.
“In fact, I’m quite certain that before God can ever bless a woman — and use her to impact many — He uses the hammer, the file, and the furnace to do a holy work.” — Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss, Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska
More Coping Strategies for Living With Chronic Illness
As you probably know if you are a chronic pain sufferer, the impact of chronic illness on individuals varies from person to person. But no matter what, don’t feel hopeless about your situation. There are simple lifestyle changes you can make that will help ease the burden, reduce the severity and frequency of the pain, and help you to deal with it better on a regular basis.
Try keeping a journal. It isn’t just fluff..one of the most important reasons to do this is to find your chronic pain triggers. For many people, the pain isn’t merely random, but is often triggered by something. You can start journaling every time you experience pain, and note what you were doing or eating before then. You might find that certain foods trigger your IBD pain, or that your fiber acts up in certain weather conditions or while standing for too long. Eventually, knowing your triggers can help you reduce them, which then helps with the
long-term pain management.
Learn how to manage stress. Stress has a strong link with chronic pain, making it worse and keeping you from finding relief from the pain. If you are under a lot of stress, whether financial, personal or work stress, it’s much harder to get control over the pain on a daily basis.
What you eat or drink can also have a major impact on your chronic pain level. If your pain is related to inflammation, you need to cut back on fried foods, red meat, and refined carbs, and go for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Eliminate alcohol and smoking, and drink more water. These are healthy changes not only for your weight management and general wellness, but for reducing your chronic pain as well.
Exercising outdoors helps to reduce chronic pain. This helps distract your mind from the pain, allowing you to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, be a little more social, and take in your surroundings. While on a scenic hike, you’ll become absorbed in your surroundings and your pain may subside, even if just for a moment. This can make a big difference for anyone with chronic pain.
Relaxing your body and mind is important for managing chronic pain on a daily basis. Find things to help you unwind at the end of a long day or de-stress, whether that means taking a bath, enjoying a movie with your family, or getting out an adult coloring
Living With Chronic Illness Blogs
I’m really thankful to be living in a day and age where it’s easy to connect with other people living life with chronic illness. While it can never completely replace meeting up in person, I do feel like I have a place to turn to when I’m struggling and for day to day support (and even laughs!)
Here’s some chronic illness blogs for you to check out:
Brainless Blogger – A blog is about chronic illness, chronic pain, and invisible disability awareness. The author lives with chronic migraines, Fibromyalgia, asthma, hypothyroidism, depression, and hypermobility syndrome.
The Health Sessions – Written by a psychologist living with chronic illness, she shows you how to create lasting health habits and best tips on coping with chronic illness.
Inflamed and Untamed – Written by a fellow IBD patient, this blog talks about the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes funny things about living with chronic illness.
Chronic Illness Bloggers will help to connect you to the chronic illness community. Blogging helps many of us to cope as well as being an important mental and creative outlet.
Sunshine and Spoons. I was really happy to find this blog because we’re both special needs moms who live with chronic illness. That’s the beauty of the Internet to me right here – I probably would never found someone else like me locally.
How do you find balance while living with chronic illness?