I am so excited to share the beginning of a 6-week series with you all. If you haven’t read my experience with the company, Self Care Catalysts, from when I attended ePharma, go do that here. Self Care Catalysts is one of the first to dedicate energy and time around self-care for patients, outside of patients themselves! In doing so, they are kicking off a movement called: Self Care Mvmt. The Self Care Mvmt will highlight the stories of real patients and shed more light and perspective around what it really means to live with a chronic illness, “to reveal the unseen and invisible aspects of living with a long-term illness, and to celebrate self-care.” If you’re interested in learning more about the Self Care Mvmt, or joining it yourself, head over to their website here. Follow along on social media with the hashtag: #selfcaremvmt.
The first topic in the series is about finding the positive in your day to day life with a chronic illness. The topic, Daily Little Accomplishments, will highlight ordinary, routine activities that can be celebrated as accomplishments because of the challenges that arise when living with chronic conditions. Just as an FYI to any new readers I might have, and for the purposes of this blog series, here are the chronic conditions that I have been dealt with: Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Costochondritis, Anxiety, Rhinitis, and Autoimmune Anemia.
Daily Little Accomplishments: this is a tough topic for me. Not because I don’t see the importance of it, no, in fact I believe it’s of utmost necessity when living with multiple chronic illnesses. Nevertheless, I’m not that great at it. Sometimes I don’t know why I torture myself with the type of lifestyle and schedule that I lead. I think I’m widely successful at being aware of what is the best thing for me, or what is the healthiest (physically, mentally, emotionally) for me. However, I struggle with the follow through. I know exactly what I need to do, but I don’t do it. Or I don’t know how to do it. Needless to say, execution of self-care is not my strong suit.
I’m trying to get better at this and really focus on what my body needs, what it doesn’t need, and when/how to push through if possible. I know that a portion of my symptoms are due to my weight gain and inactivity. I know that if I really focus on getting enough light exercise and losing weight, a small level of the severity of my symptoms would go away/get better. So that’s part of it. The other parts are more due to my perfectionism, stubbornness, and desire to control everything. What’s that saying: the harder you try to hold on to something, the more it slips away? I think that sometimes I want to control everything, not only as a safety net, but also because I feel like I can do it better than anyone else. Well, obviously that isn’t working out well for me considering my stress and anxiety levels.
Okay, enough about how I’m bad at this! There are a few things I’ve gotten much better at in the past year or two. One of these is sleep. Sleep is one of the last things I will compromise. No offense to anyone in my life–but I will cancel just about anything if it’s going to hinder a nap or a good night’s sleep. #SorryNotSorry. I’m someone who does not function well, or at all, without a significant amount of sleep. Most of my conditions cause fatigue, but having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia as two of them really impacts my ability to have any accomplishments throughout the day if I’m running on only a handful of hours of sleep.
If I have my sleep handled for the day/night, then I can more easily bring in other Daily Little Accomplishments. One of the biggest accomplishments to me is being able to hold a (more than) full-time job. I don’t know if I’m grateful that maybe my conditions’ symptoms are less severe than others, or if they are the same and I have built a mental toughness around them, but either way it allows me to still be dedicated to my career. I love my job, and I love my career. It means so much to me to do a good job and make headway with my career development. I’m proud of the experience I have and the depth of skill sets I’ve acquired. That being said, it’s exhausting as well. I know that if I practiced more of the #selfcaremvmt, and less of the control freak/perfectionist persona, I would be even more successful. And healthier too!
Honestly, another Daily Little Accomplishment for me is if I accomplish making a home cooked meal. It’s kind of annoying to cook a full meal for just one person, but I know that when I do that, not only do I save money, but I eat a lot healthier too. Maybe I should say this is more of a Daily Little Goal instead of a Daily Little Accomplishment.
One thing I’ve learned while navigating the journey of chronic illness is that you have to be kinder to yourself. And I do struggle with this, though admittedly I have gotten better in the past year. You have to understand when your body needs a rest and when you might need extra assistance to accomplish something. It’s not about ego or pride, it’s about just being kind to your body. Love yourself a little bit harder by cutting yourself some slack.
I know, I know. Shut up Kristin and take your own advice. :)