Suffering from a chronic illness has a way of knocking you out of this game called life. Or at least changing the directions and goals you had for yourself. Every illness brings limitations, but keeping life as normal as possible can be one of the most important things to do on your road to recovery.
For almost two years now, I’ve been suffering from the debilitating effects of Lyme Disease. In the words of a friend, it wasn’t the midlife crisis I was anticipating. There are 12 things I have endeavored to do consistently, even in my darkest days. I wasn’t always consciously aware of what I was doing and I haven’t always succeeded, but I’ve always come back to them.
Envision yourself healthy
In the beginning, this was probably the most difficult to do, but most important. I day dreamed of playing with my young grandson, and envisioned myself enjoying all the activities I did before I got sick. Seeing myself healthy again helped keep me from plunging further into despair.
Keep Dreaming and Following Your Dreams
On the worst days, I was lucky to be able to dream about supper. However, the times I felt a little better, I started dreaming about the future again. Following the dreams I already had seemed insurmountable. I knew they might have to change, so I began thinking more creatively about how I could fulfill the vision I have for my life.
Avoid Unnecessary Stress
Stress is an immune suppressor. So it became extremely important for me to avoid it. I really had to lower my self-expectations. I’m easier on myself and don’t allow others to put too much pressure on me to do. Living a quiet life has become very important to my ongoing recovery.
Get Outside (Or at Least Look Out the Window)
Exposure to nature has always been important to me. And it’s been scientifically verified contact with nature improves overall well-being. So, I make a point of getting outside as much as possible, even if it’s just to watch the clouds go by.
On my darkest days, if someone asks me how I am, I’m quick to say I feel like crap. I don’t necessarily go into detail—unless I’m asked—but I always tell it like it is. It takes too much energy to pretend.
Ask for Help
People aren’t mind readers, and don’t necessarily understand what’s happening to you. I’ve always been very independent, so asking for help was hard at first. I’ve become very good at communicating my needs now. Some days just getting out of bed can be difficult, so I say yes to help more often than not.
Being thankful is a boost not only to mood, but also to immunity. I’m naturally optimistic, but when you’re suffering, it takes a little more effort to be filled with gratitude. So, I make a conscious effort to be thankful for everything that’s right and good and lovely in my life.
Celebrate the little victories
My recovery has been slow and often agonizing, so I have to choose to be encouraged in the little victories. Something as simple as going for a short hike warrants a celebration when you’ve barely been able to get off the couch.
Engage Socially as Much as Possible
Being sick is a lonely journey, but that doesn’t mean you have to be alone. In the early days of Lyme, being with people was extremely physically, emotionally and mentally draining . But whenever possible, I spent at least a brief time with others. It was vital for my sanity to stay in touch with friends and family.
Laugh, a Lot
I make sure to watch or read something funny at least once a day. Laughter really is good like medicine. My sense of humor suffered along with my body, but I forced myself to laugh often. Thankfully, I have a husband who loves to make me laugh.
Indulge in What Brings You Joy
It was difficult to even feel joy at times, so when something did ignite happy feelings, I indulged myself. Now, I try to find something to take joy in everyday even if it’s as simple as sitting and watching the birds, or having a favorite food. And with limited energy, I often choose what’s important over what’s urgent.
Never Give Up Hope
At times I was definitely hanging on by a thread, and even contemplated suicide. However, I’ve always said if there’s breath in the lungs and a heartbeat, there’s hope. For me, it came in the form of a deep knowing I was going to live and God had more for me here. For you it may be something different, but the premise is the same: Never give up.
Being sick has changed my life in so many ways, but not all of the changes have been negative. A conscious awareness of these 12 simple acts is one of the positives. And they will remain a conscious part of my post-Lyme life. My advice? Don’t wait until you’re ill to do what really matters to you.