Tuesday, 19 December 2017

:: COLUMN :: Chronic illness and the new year

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:: This column was originally posted on Endometriosis News ::


New years eve is typically spent with a glass of bubbly in one hand, while you have a boogie and a fabulous night of socialising with friends. It’s not quite the same for those of us with a chronic illness though.

Some of us might be struggling to keep up appearances, fighting through the pain to see out the year as we are expected to. But, the rest of us will be sat at home, maybe having a very normal evening of television before an early night, feeling like we are missing out on all the fun.

Some people can also find the new year a particularly difficult time, mentally. A new year usually brings about a reflection on events that have happened over that year and resolutions for change for the coming year. “New year, new start”. A time to start afresh, make amends for past events, turn the page and become a new you. But what happens if your health holds you back from making those changes in your life?

As a chronically ill person, the ‘normal’ resolutions that everyone else would make don’t mean quite so much. Get to the gym more? Hmmm. Travel more? Maybe not. Sadly, those with chronic illness will still carry the same health setbacks, pain and sickness through to the new year making the coming year a challenge before it even begins.

If you really want to make (and keep) some new year's resolutions, why not try thinking of them in a different way?

Let go of expectations
Just because it’s a new year, doesn’t mean you must start afresh. Carry on the best you can and let go of any expectations you or others have put upon yourself. Think about what you have achieved this year. You might have been a busy bee all year and achieved lots. But there is no shame in having done less. You might feel some days like all you’ve done is get out of bed to go and rest on the couch. But hey, you got out of bed! Celebrate those small victories. And remember, expectations equal pressure, and we could all do with a little less of that!

Focus on the can’s not the cannot’s
Think of all the things you can do. It might not be much, and, because of the way chronic illness works, it will most certainly be different every day. But what can you do? Can you breathe? Yes. Can you get dressed? Some days. Can you get out of the house? Maybe tomorrow. Don’t fixate on the negatives because you can do so much. Even if they don’t seem important, you are still doing something.

Be gentle with yourself and practice some self love
You are not lazy if you don’t start going to the gym. You are not weak if you need to rest. You are not selfish if you need to put yourself and your health first. We are so hard on ourselves sometimes, especially as people who suffer day in and day out with illness. We want so much for ourselves and it’s not always feasible - but we are not failures in any way, shape or form because of our illnesses.

Let go of the negative
Whether it is our own self loathing, or maybe someone in our lives bringing us down. Let go. You don’t have to answer to anyone else. Think positively and take steps to banish that negativity.

Take baby steps
We might want to get somewhere quickly but that’s not always possible in the world of chronic illness. We have to pace ourselves and rest in between. Take baby steps towards each goal and then look back and see how far you’ve come. It’s similar to thinking about the year. You might think the year has been a waste of time but you’ve made it through all 365 days of that year - even when you thought you couldn’t. Keep going. Take it slow and easy. Eventually you’ll get there.

Look forward not back
Keep your goals in sight and look forward to them. Don’t keep looking back at what could have been or what has been.

Whatever you do this new years eve, and whatever the new year brings your way, I wish you all good health, happiness and love.

You can follow my Endometriosis News column here.

S.
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