You know that saying, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle?” Well I have two theories on that old adage: 1. God is WAY too busy to pay attention to me, with everything else going on in the world right now OR 2. Someone totally made that up. Because clearly God hasn’t realized how very much of a woman on the edge I am right now. Like clinging to that edge with one toe, woman on the edge.
Now let’s face it, 2020 has not been a pleasant year for anyone, so I certainly do not mean to underestimate anyone else’s strife; but in this house, the hits have just kept coming. And that’s just it with chronic illness; life and circumstance could care less that you’re too sick to get off the couch.
So what happens when crisis after crisis continue to hit, when you’re too tired to move, on the verge of vomiting or in such pain you can barely stop the tears? Here’s what I’ve been doing…..
- Take one crisis at a time. When I thought about ALL the crises at once, I became crippled with anxiety. If I didn’t compartmentalize one thing at a time, I couldn’t make any progress on anything. While I never really stopped thinking about the mysterious mass that could or could not be growing, I had to solely focus on getting my Son help. Deviating from having a single minded focus would have meant I lost focus on everything but the overwhelm.
- Remind yourself that the situation is temporary. Or not. If it isn’t temporary, try to remember that you have gotten through incredibly difficult times before. Even when you thought you couldn’t.
- Prioritize. This is tough to do when there’s a million things hanging over your head and people are relying on you. But priorities have to come in to play. It’s even tougher when you’re handling multiple emergencies at once. But it’s totally impossible to juggle everything at once. Trust me, I’ve tried.
- Write things down. And I mean I write everything down. I even keep a pad of paper & pen in the upstairs bathroom, just in case. Not only does this help you keep track of things, it makes it easier to prioritize what you immediately need to focus on when you have everything in front of you.
- Understand that some things just cannot be controlled. No matter how badly you want or need to control them. Instead of focusing on what you cannot control, focus on what you can control and do that.
- Let stuff go. I still struggle with this nearly a decade after becoming chronically ill, but it’s a must. At one point, I wanted to cry over the need to clean my house and do laundry or the inability to get groceries. So I revert back to #3; prioritize and then let go of what you cannot get to.
- Do not ignore your needs. Good nutrition, rest, pacing and time outs are not only crucial to avoid flares, but ensuring your own basic needs are met, means you can still fight the battles in front of you.
- We’re sick. Just in case you needed that not so subtle reminder….I’m here to remind you: chronic illness doesn’t go away just because of emergencies or because someone is totally relying on you. In fact, I have yet to meet an instance where chronic illness is cooperative. (feel free to swear alot here)
- Recognize when you’re not okay. If I wasn’t thinking about is it cancer, or is it not, then I was worrying about not seeing my very elderly Aunt and Parents in five months or canceling and re-planning the wedding. Once the strangulating fears began that my Son’s injuries would lead to chronic ones, I knew it was time to return to Therapy. There’s only so much the human mind can take. Recognize when your mental health is in trouble and be okay with acknowledging you need help.
- So…….ask for that help. I returned to therapy, yes. But I also relied on other help. I made my needs clear to Bri, asked our other kids for help, cried to friends when I could no longer cope and cooperated with my Ex Husband to alleviate some of the burden. While I am certainly a person who always took care of everything, I can no longer be that person. Plus, that’s one of the perks of having loved ones.
- Seek care for yourself. Not only do I mean ask family for help or return to Therapy. But in such a state of emergency and overwhelm, the anxiety was choking me. When that happens, it’s time to also call the Doctor. While I don’t normally use sleep meds, these have been far from normal times. I touched base with my Primary Care to make sure my physical care needs were being met, as much as my mental ones. It’s okay to admit I needed anti-anxiety and sleep meds for a while. That doesn’t make me weak, it makes me smart enough to know I need some help.
- Shut down when and if needed. I napped when my Son napped, cried when I couldn’t hold in anymore tears, screamed when the frustration got to be too much and sat in front of Hulu for hours on end. Sometimes, shutting down temporarily gives your brain the ability to take a rest and recharge.
- Try to find and embrace some normalcy. My dog walks are always my reprieve for everything. While it seemed impossible to fit them in, we made time to stop and take short ones. Go grab an ice cream, play fetch or have coffee under the gazebo. Any sense of normalcy can bring a moments peace. Well until a Hurricane comes and rips your gazebo to bits……okay moving on….
- I left this one for last. Now I know this will seem preposterous and maybe even infuriating, BUT…..look for gratitude. It’s easy to (okay, super easy) to drown in all of the misery that’s surrounding you. I totally get it. But misery loves company and if you only focus on that misery, it’s easy to get swallowed by it and see nothing but that. At one of my Son’s appointments, the Doctor said he was lucky he didn’t break his neck. And you know what? He totally is. This has been a horrible time, especially for him, but it could have been way more horrible. He’s alive, we have him and he will eventually recover. So yes, I am grateful.
On Friday, I had my three month MRI follow up (monitoring my mystery mass) and despite all the points I laid out to you above, I vacillated between desperation and despondency, walking in to that hospital. So I begged God, Jesus, the Angels, the universe and anyone else who might be listening (squirrels too), to please not let it be cancer this time. Because sometimes, nothing works and no pointers comfort, when grief and fear swallow you whole. But that’s just what happens when chronic illness and crises collide. <3