Community, Coping

Balance & Illness: Tips for Slowing Yourself Down

“Holy Toledo Bat Girl.” You gotta respect any email that begins that! In response to Balance & Illness (and Always Pushing Myself Over the Edge), Carolyn sent me a caring, sympathetic note. She shared her experience with and tips for keeping herself from overdoing it.

About 4 years ago I got into rebound headaches for the second time, I had just started a new job, I had signed up for a class, and was started in with a new volunteer group. I think it was then with my migraines out of control and these things that I had to cancel-the class, the group, etc, I realized I had to find balance. I have found more through trial and error, what works best for me.

Here are my rules:

  • I don’t commit to do something on a weeknight, after working it’s just too much.
  • On the weekends we do chores, I do laundry and groceries and I try to cook a batch of something for the week (I like to cook too).
  • If I need to go outside the house for errands I limit that to about 2 stops or about 2 hours. And I would limit myself to one event a weekend.
  • I try not to double book. I tire easily. Social things tire me. I just don’t have the stamina that other people do.

(But I do understand the need to make “real” lemonade. I catch myself doing stuff like that. The need to have both families over at once. I cut that out. It was too much.)

Carolyn’s rules got me thinking about the constraints I’ve put on myself — ones that are obviously insufficient. I have to eat. I have to rest for a little while. If I feel myself going too far, I must sit down. I followed all these rules all three weeks. The problem is I didn’t see that three weeks of activities could wear me out, even if I rested.

When I told Carolyn that I have trouble convincing myself that I’m not lazy, she had another thoughtful response.

I think because we have a chronic illness when things go wrong (like when you ended up in bed for the day), you may have blamed yourself. We are always on the lookout for what is causing a flare up and what we did wrong to cause a flare up.

Living with a chronic illness is so hard because we are always trying to manage it by doing the right things. So when the illness flares up we tend to blame ourselves, when really, we are trying our best all of the time. If I look at my friends and family they aren’t nearly as careful as I am day in day out with diet, exercise, schedule, balance, etc.

Many readers have told me they learn a lot from The Daily Headache. What you may not know is that I learn just as much from you.