Chronic illness and coping can change our lives in many ways.
When life expands
I recently have had medical treatment for my major depressive disorder and I have been going to the pain clinic for chronic pain. Those are pretty tangled together: pain and depression. And with both of them being treated at the same time I actually made some progress. My depression certainly is better managed. And I have made some improvements in overall pain management.
One thing I did was go down to part-time work. I can’t handle full-time work, not without extreme amounts of pain, stress, missed work, presenteeism, and loss of productivity. It doesn’t Work. Part time is difficult to maintain… it is almost impossible and I still have presenteeism and I still miss too much. But it is less stressful and with the depression managed to a good degree I can cope with the pain and stress of it in ways I couldn’t before. It also enables me to have a modest life outside of work. Depending on pain and fatigue. I have a small social life. (Socializing: the one thing that helped me). My world grew a little bit from the complete hermit I was, and had to be, from the immense pain, fatigue and depression I was in.
I had to realize it was better for functionality to not work fulltime, for one thing. Decrease that, and stretch out other aspects of life a little. I am introverted and I do have chronic illnesses so I do not socialize Much. My psychologist was always on about how I should More. But did a bit and I rather liked it. Past tense.
We can grow in our hobbies as well, because we have a little more oomph in us when at least we are not Always in high pain or the motivation isn’t sucked out of us from deep depression.
You can find a lot of acceptance. Because the pain isn’t so intense all the time so when your psychologist says ‘you will always be in pain, so why not do that thing you want to do and be prepared? You will be in pain whether you do it or not?’… it actually is something you Can do sometimes depending on the thing and circumstances.
When life shrinks
Things happen. Things change. Illness is unpredictable. I have this severe vestibular symptoms to deal with. It will change how you pace. How you plan. How you function. What you can and cannot do. And… the world begins to shrink with possibilities. With limits you didn’t have before. And you cannot work, or, even function as much as you could.
I went for my Botox treatment today. I didn’t drive, because I can’t. That is a hard limit right now. I brought my cane with me. And at first I was a little unstable. It got worse. And during my appointment I was getting dizzy spells. By the time I got home the dizzy spells and falling sensations were severe. I couldn’t stand much. I couldn’t cook supper. I had to lay down. Every time I move my head the world whirls. Which is a lot. 2 hours and that was that. The rest of the day I had to rest. I felt horrible sensations constantly even laying down. It is insane how much it cost me.
So this tells me a lot. It tells me standing and walking about is severely limited.
I know already doing 1 small, short household chore, like scooping the litter boxes, makes me worse.
I know resting during the day helps.
And I know I have limited standing and walking time.
That even sitting upright too long makes me feel worse.
And the world is smaller.
I feel cognitively slow and unable to function. I can’t do a lot of the hobbies I enjoy.
So socializing is… going to be very, very hard to manage. And I am not going to be ‘all there’ during it as my functionality takes a nosedive in a short period of time. Every time I do try, like go for coffee, the short duration just makes me so much worse for the rest of the day. But isolation, that is not a good thing either. A friend wants us to go out coming up. And we do not see her often now, so I want to. But this, this will be hard. It isn’t just that I feel worse, or that my mobility gets worse, but cognitively I get much worse too… so I don’t know if I will great company. Also… limits. How worse can it get if I push them? Can’t know if I don’t try, I suppose. From how I feel after today not sure I should push them.
Life expands and contracts with chronic illness depending on coping and depending on symptoms. My life has contracted in the past from depression. It has contracted from pain. It has expanded from treatment of both and from coping. And from changing to part-time and decreasing stress in my life. I cannot know what the future will hold, right now it is contracted.
It is important in either that we live the best we can in both states. Try to find glimmers of sunshine in there. Little bits of life. And I will find other ways to fill my day somehow. Like how hard I work on just blogging. I will find something else I can do. Audiobooks or podcasts. I downloaded a podcast app. We find life in our limitations. I will try to nudge those limits to find a little bit of a social life in there, but when I try it, if it costs me too much, then I will have to think of alternatives. Inviting people over instead. Come to me! I have cookies! I don’t. I ate them all.
And then, when it expands again… we can test our now limits and grow a little more. Aiming from more expansion always.