If you are taking this journey to wellness with a chronic illness, an understandable first concern will be: what about the normal roadblocks I encounter with my illness? What if I have a flare-up and cannot do anything for weeks time so it sets me back?
These are valid concerns and I am here to tell you that it will be okay when that happens.
Despite my best efforts, I still get mild MS flare-ups throughout the year. Because of my blog, I’m more aware that during the transitional times of the year, spring into summer, summer into fall, I am more likely to have some form of a flare-up.
These flare-ups can set me back a day, a few days, a week, and in one extreme case, a few months (though that’s been a while).
I have learned to accept that these flare-ups are normal and move forward in my journey in spite of them.
New Journey; New Frustrations
Whenever starting a new journey there’s always moments of self-doubt. Will I succeed? What will the success look like? What would failure look like? How do I avoid failure?
There are always a ton of questions. When dealing with personal goals that require us to do extra work, such as adding in an extra walk for the day, looking over a boring task that you’ve been avoiding, or working through a particularly emotional part of your life; it’s easy to get stuck and want to avoid dealing with it altogether.
That’s part of the problem, something gets frustrating so we put it off and then we get discouraged and the cycle continues. Adding in a chronic illness where things happen out of our control adds an additional layer of frustration.
In the Multiple Sclerosis communities, we have many different names for when the illness/disease takes over: flare-up, exacerbation, and my personal favorite, the relapse. If you have another autoimmune disease, chronic illness, or personal wellness roadblock, you might have a different name for it.
To avoid confusion, let’s just call it an “attack.”
Attacks happen. You know they are going to happen and that might be discouraging, but it’s part of your normal like it or not. We might as well take a moment and embrace it. Our normal is not the same as anyone else’s normal. Let’s be honest: no one’s “normal” is like anyone else’s with or without a chronic illness.
The best thing we can do in these situations is to recognize that attacks will happen and prepare ourselves for dealing with them effectively. If you know what triggers an attack and how to manage it, then make a game plan.
Make the Changes Anyway
Since we know roadblocks with a chronic illness are going to happen anyways, there’s never going to be a good time to make the wellness changes you’ve been wanting to make. That’s why now is the time to make those changes regardless.
I would love to have a day where I don’t deal with any fatigue so I can do my yoga or respond to a bunch of emails that end up taking several hours. But I won’t get that day and if I do, I cannot plan for it. Chronic illness never allows me to fully plan when and if things get done.
If I want to do yoga or be productive, I have to make those changes regardless. Roadblocks with a chronic illness are normal, so it makes sense to accept them and work with the roadblocks when it comes time to start a wellness journey.
It sounds like I am saying “just do it,” and on the surface level, I am. But what is different is how you approach the “just do it” attitude. I am reducing a very complicated situation down to changing perspective because that’s the first step in a very difficult and very personal journey.
It’s all a Matter of Perspective
If you’ve been in the middle of your illnesses long enough, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to have a “normal” life. Concerns for attacks can rule your days, so you forget how different concerns would interfere with those who don’t cope with a chronic illness.
A car breaking down can take someone out of commission for weeks at a time, like an episode for us. Twisting an ankle might keep a person from exercising for a week until they recover, just like an attack.
Sure, we have the added concern the same things that happen for “normal” people happening to us PLUS dealing with an attack, but the point is – everyone has things that can bring up a roadblock and stymie all progress made when trying to live a wellness-based life.
Maintaining the perspective that there is always a concern for an attack, but focusing on it ending (even though you don’t know when) and finding small ways to work around it will keep you going. Obviously, some attacks will prevent you from moving forward because if you are bedridden and there may be little you can do to adjust. However, if you are bedridden but able to lift a weight, even if it’s a book for a couple of repetitions, the very act of doing something may be enough to help keep you going.
Adjust your perspective to see that you are not alone because everyone has roadblocks, and that your roadblocks just look a little different than others.
Roadblocks with a Chronic Illness
As you begin your wellness journey, expect the roadblocks or attacks to happen, and embrace them. I am not recommending leaning into them to make excuses, but say to yourself: well, this is going to happen and I can’t necessarily change it, so I might as well work around these roadblocks to bring about a positive change in my life.
I cannot guarantee it because I am not a healthcare professional, but there’s a chance recognizing these attacks as normal and adjusting your perspective to be prepared for them might help lessen the attacks when you get them. It may never prevent them and what damage/time taken away from your life, but when you are ready for something you know how to effectively deal with it.
I have found that I’ve shortened the length of my attacks when I am prepared and don’t allow the attacks to discourage me or my progress. I tend to have an attitude of “well this is an annoyance, but I clearly need to slow down because I am overworking my body in some way.”
This suggestion and method of approach are not “one-size-fits-all” but if you’ve never tried to prepare yourself for these attacks in mind, it would be worth trying to account for them over the next couple of weeks.
For Wednesday, look for a post on how to begin the process of planning for and accounting for roadblocks.
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