Let’s face it. Life with a chronic illness can be hard. Very hard.
The ups and downs of symptoms can be overwhelming.
While the pain and fatigue are difficult to deal with, I usually find that symptoms of depression and anxiety affect me the most.
Over the years of dealing with depression and anxiety, I’ve come to find some useful tools that help me boost my mood when I’m feeling low. These things are not cures (I’m not a doctor and can’t give treatment plans or cures anyway!), but they are resources to help you feel a little better on your journey of treating chronic illness.
Some people like to take naps and lounge. I often wish I were like them! It would be nice to be able to focus on a Netflix marathon without getting the itch to go do something else. It would be great to be free of thinking of the next thing I would like to be doing.
I don’t mind curling up in a blanket on the couch, but I’d rather be reading a book than watching a movie. If not reading, I would prefer to be writing or brainstorming for a new project. I am all for being cozy, but I like to do it with purpose.
Many days, I wish that resting came naturally to me – that I was someone who could easily watch hour after hour of TV shows to pass the time. When I feel miserable from the pain, fatigue, and brain fog that come from managing several chronic illnesses, I would love to just veg out on the couch and enjoy it!
I’m not a good rester because I desperately want to be doing something. I like to be involved in activities. I like doing work that matters, and I am not very good at stopping.
Have you ever felt this way?
What happens when those of us with chronic illnesses have great intentions but the illnesses we face stop us in our tracks?
Life with a chronic illness can be incredibly hard. Most of us who face chronic health issues have one thing in common: our lives do not look the way they did before we got sick. No matter the level of debilitation, the symptoms we face change the way we function.
Changes may be big or small depending on the severity of symptoms at the particular time. For some, it’s a roller coaster of symptoms that get better or worse (or both) each day.
Some people are able to be functioning members of society, while others are confined to their homes, unable to get out into the world to do things as “normal” as grocery shopping.
I’ve been in both camps. I know what it’s like to try to manage a full-time job while very ill. I also know the challenges of being unable to get out of bed for long periods of time. In both situations, my life was vastly different than it was when I was healthy. Accommodations had to be made to conserve energy and meet my needs. I was often discouraged.
Some days on the journey with Lyme Disease are harder than others. It’s all up and down, which makes feeling stable something to be desired, but not grasped.
It’s interesting how different our experiences with Lyme Disease may be. For some, just leaving the house to go to the grocery store is a major victory (that’s been me!). For others, they homeschool 4 kids and remain active in church. Others may work part-time but spend every minute outside of work resting. Chronic Lyme Disease can be a debilitating illness that affects each of us differently.
But, one thing we all seem to have in common is that symptoms come and go. They increase and decrease. The pain migrates to various parts of our bodies. There are flares and Herxheimer Reactions.
While in the midst of difficult symptoms, I am aware of what is happening with my body. I know the pain is bad and I begin to get used to it. It’s somehow expected as I wake up each day.
However, if I have a few “good days” in a row (good is all relative…), I begin to be shocked or discouraged when symptoms increase, either by flare or Herx. I may have started out content on the difficult days, but when good days come, they bring a glimmer of hope for more better days. Then, when a good day is followed by a bad day, I grow more depressed about my current situation.
That’s why prayer must be the first thing I do when symptoms come on stronger. I have seek God in it before I allow my sinful nature to take over. My tendency is to grow bitter and become angry, but I know that letting my mind engage in that kind of thinking is never helpful!
Living with a chronic illness, where each day is a battle, can wear on a person. Those with chronic illnesses have to manage a lot! Finding relief from symptoms while facing a chronic illness includes far more than just a little extra rest.
For many people I’ve met in the chronic illness community, their treatment protocols have included dietary changes, an extensive list of supplements and prescription medicines, detox methods, rest, exercise, prayer, meditation, use of essential oils, and more. There’s often a mix of traditional and herbal treatment. Because each person’s body is different, the treatment that works for them will be individualized, even if they have similar conditions. It’s a matter of trial and error until they can find the right system.
I’m at the place in my treatment of Lyme, co-infections, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, etc. where I am worn down and need serious rest in addition to my current treatment protocol. I’ve been burnt out and depressed, feeling like I’m constantly on the verge of drowning. Stress and feelings of unmet expectations take me into a dark place where I feel like I can’t go on.
Because I’ve felt so terrible over the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what I actually need in order to get better. What I’ve learned through personal reflection and prayer is that the most crucial thing my body needs right now is for me to be kind and give myself grace.