Let’s talk about mental health. Specifically, how chronic illness affects mental health. I’m lucky to have a handful of people in my life that are understanding about the limitations I have because of Fibro. Their efforts to understand and accept help me keep my shit in perspective. My life looks different than most and they remind me that I’m killing every damn day in my own way.
You see, I have a drive to do all the things, all the time. And when I can’t do all the things, or even a couple of fucking things, everything goes dark. The despair I feel when my physical abilities don’t match my ambitions is heavy. Like a wet, wool blanket on my head and spirit. My heart gets broken every time. It takes a very conscious effort to just sit with that shit and let myself feel disappointed and let down by my body and mind. One part of me just wants to pull the covers back over my head and the other part wants to say, fuck it, and push through. Pushing through never works. It will only steal better days from me. My spirit takes a hit too, but everything I’ve been through in my life has made me a fucking fighter. I get knocked down and sometimes I stay down for a while, but I always get back up. I get back up and go at shit from a different angle. Life is not linear, it’s a roller coaster, but I’d like to see a little more balance in myself. So, what the hell can I do? For starters, I can turn my shitty attitude around. Attitude of gratitude sounds cheesy, but it’s truth.
Queue the internal dialogue:
Positive Voice: You have a roof over your head and your bills are paid
Negative Voice: But every nerve in my body is screaming SO LOUD
PV: You have food to eat and your basic needs are met
NV: But my brain fog is so bad I can’t have a basic conversation
PV: You need to think about things you CAN do today
NV: But the list of can’t dos is longer
PV: You need to shut the fuck up! This isn’t how we do shit. You’re not going to sit and pout about it all damn day. That’s too many wasted moments.
NV: Ok fine, you win. I still hate you!
After all that, the darkness recedes enough for me to see what’s in front of me. The big picture. And I can start looking at my To Do list with some realistic expectations. A dear friend of mine reminded me the other day that expectations need to meet reality. I can carve out tasks for myself that will work for my abilities that day. Taking into account pacing and rest times has made a huge difference in my daily function, even on my worst days. One of my rheumatologists once told me that she’d like to see me have “pain level 6” days every day. That floored me. I don’t want to have a level 6 every damn day. But when I thought about it, that all but eliminates level 11, 12 and 13 pain days. And who doesn’t want that? It’s grueling work on all levels, but in doing the work, I can end my day feeling damn proud of myself. It takes practice to make all of this habit and I’m putting in work. I want more out of life and that starts with acceptance and understanding within myself, for myself. My tribe gets it, now it’s time I do too.