What’s the diagnosis? Chronic.
You’ve recently visited your local doctor and the “diagnosis” wasn’t one you wanted to hear. You wanted a prescription you could take for a few days and magically all your symptoms disappear. Unfortunately, if you’re reading this that probably wasn’t the case for you. You were told you have chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic migraines, fibromyalgia, Lymes, vertigo…the list goes on and on.
What do all of these have in common you ask? Each one of these are described as chronic illnesses— persistent ones that you find may never find a “cure” for. I write this blog post with hope for all those with a chronic illness to tell you ” Your life isn’t over, it’s just beginning”.
If there is anything that having chronic illness has taught me, it’s that you must live courageously and persistently. In the beginning learning to live with a chronic illness is a mystery, you don’t know what pacing yourself looks like, you don’t know what is too much or too little, but every day is a lesson learned, a lesson you learn about your body and its little tricks to living life to its fullest extent. But, like everything in life, it takes time.
Why does it take so much time to learn your boundaries? Because every person is different, there isn’t a guidebook on living with a chronic illness. Yes, there are guidelines you can follow such as : Exercise, healthy eating, taking vitamins, getting enough sleep. But we are ALL unique, what works for me might not work for you.
Did you ever read mystery books as a child and find yourself awake in the wee hours of the night just trying to figure out “who did it?”, just to wake up the next morning completely exhausted not even having finished the book and find any closure? It’s the same thing about the mystery of YOU. Not even Sherlock Holmes could help you figure out your body and what it needs in less than a few hours, or even a few days.
So how do you start? By starting with the clues your body is giving you, of course!!
Some clues to look into include:
For me my first step was eliminating certain foods out of my diet. I started with the one that seemed most obvious to me. Dairy. Oh yes, my beloved ice-cream and cheese has been an assistant AND a culprit of many of my symptoms. After removing dairy I felt less bloated, gassy…well, you get the picture. Digestive issues seemed to lessen. Not only did my tummy start to feel better, but the pain I often felt in my muscles from the fibromyalgia didn’t bother me quite as intensely as they did. I have now been on a dairy free diet since 2013.
I eliminated a quite few foods for a while such as corn, soy, wheat, peanuts, eggs and more. I didn’t do all foods all at once but slowly. I would remove them then slowly add them back in to see how each food affected me.
To my dismay wheat is also a culprit for me, it intensifies my fatigue more than any of the other foods .
Yoga, deep breathing, meditating, massage therapy, hot baths, facials, listening to music, naps. These are many techniques recommended by professionals for relaxation–and many that I use myself.
This one is a tough one for many of us. If you suffer with pain and fatigue the last thing you want to do is run 10 miles! Trust me, I get it. But exercise is what our bodies crave and need in order to function at its fullest potential. Finding the right exercise for you is what is important. When I started, I found that anything low impact and as little as 10 minutes a day is what suited my needs. Guess what? Since starting my fitness journey in 2015 my energy levels have been higher than they had been the previous three years!!
Distraction is a biggie, you can’t always be focused on the pain. That’s just downright depressing. You MUST find an outlet that you personally enjoy and helps you keep your mind off of the terrible feelings. That may be painting, singing, reading, hiking, sitting at parks, visiting the local animal shelter. None the less, find what you enjoy most and make it a priority and stick to it!
Last but not least, I have found it highly important to be continuously bettering myself, reading through scripture and focusing on being grateful is what truly impacts my mental health. But like everything else, this could be different for you. It could be listening to podcasts, reading a self-help book, going to a counselor or a life coach. Who knows– it may even be volunteering at a charity! Whatever that looks like for you, it is vital to find something that makes you better and not bitter.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” – Proverbs 17:22
Every day you must be persistently working to find what works for you and betters your health both physically and mentally! I know what it is to feel discouraged, to want to quit and crawl into a hole and never come out. But, there is a life waiting for you, waiting to know you and needing you to do something amazing that no one else can do…and that is. JUST BE YOU.