In a recent conversation with my future father in law, we were sharing our frustrations with the fatigue that often accompanies chronic illness.
He was beating himself up for needing more naps lately and for a few moments where he had dozed off at his computer. As he spoke, I was reminded of the first months after my diagnosis when I would often get angry with myself for not being at the level of energy and accomplishment that I was used to. It was hard to reconcile this new “me” with the standards I had come to expect from myself.
Human beings are, for the most part, creatures of habit. We love our routines and when something comes along to throw a monkey wrench in things, we feel rattled. When that monkey wrench becomes permanent instead of temporary, we flounder while trying to find our new “normal.”
I can honestly tell you, it wasn’t until nearly a year after my diagnosis that I felt I was mostly comfortable with my new lifestyle. And truly, there are days where it still eats at me that I will never be the person I used to be. There will probably always be times I long for my former lifestyle. And that’s okay.
The bane of it all is that while chronic illness nearly demands a life of routine and schedule, it is also extremely unpredictable. So while we may plan things out for ourselves in order to save rushing and unnecessary pain and frustration later, something as simple as waking up in the wrong position can throw all those carefully laid plans out the window.
It’s those days that we need to be extra gentle with ourselves. We need to remind ourselves that it takes energy for the body to heal itself and those of us battling chronic conditions are in a near constant state of healing. Our bodies are always trying to get back to that “normal” and it’s taking all of our reserves. It’s not giving in or giving up, it’s being realistic. It’s realizing that we will have good days, medium days, and bad days. It’s about finding how to live our best life possible on all kinds of days.
There are tons of pamphlets, books, and helpful sites out there full of tips reminding us to rest and take it easy. What we forget is when we’re resting, we need to not be angry or frustrated with ourselves for needing that rest. The mental energy wasted beating ourselves up about that nap we took just further takes from our bank of spoons.
I know it’s not easy. And yes, there are days where I still get frustrated with myself. But as I continue on my path moving forward, it is getting easier and easier to forgive myself for not being who I always thought I would be. For not being that former self. And it’s even easier to start to like the person I am becoming.
Have you been kind to yourself today or are you beating yourself up for your body’s needs? Maybe you should give yourself a break and have something sweet to make you smile.
Me? I’m going to have some frozen yogurt while I prop my feet up. Because I need it and that’s okay.