Friday, 19 February 2021

Focusing On The Can Do's Of Chronic Illness

My January had its usual ups and downs that come with a life governed by chronic illness. There were some great days and weeks and then some real bad ones too. After two years of living like this I'm getting pretty used to it and I cope as well as I can. Each week I learn more and more about what living well with chronic illness looks like for me and January was another month of trial, error and learning. 

I began the month with goals; to write blog posts again, do the planning of my novel and start a yoga routine. I managed the blog post part as you can see and I am so excited to say that my novel planning is well under way (you can read more about that process here). The yoga, however, well... that didn't go to plan. I started with some very basic stretches in the mornings and after just a few days I had a massive crash that lasted a week. Exercise, like for many MECFS sufferers, is a big trigger for me and I have to be extremely careful with what and how much I do. 

Last year I built up a daily dog walking routine from nothing and I am so proud of that. I hoped to add to that this month with yoga but it just wasn't working for me. At first it was frustrating to crash so hard after what felt so tiny. The smallest of yoga routines was just too much for my body and that reminder of its weakness is painful. But I soon decided it just wasn't the time. I set myself a goal of creating a yoga routine in 2021. Not in January 2021 just in 2021. There is still plenty of time and instead I decided to focus my energy on the things I could do. 

That ability to just let go and focus on what I can do took a lot of time to get to and I still struggle with it everyday. I have worked hard to bring my stamina up so I am able to do more than I could two years ago which of course helps a lot but I'm still unable to do so many things. I am also unable to do the things I can do to the extent I want to do them. I would love to write more each day, to walk more each day, to read and craft and cook more than I can. But if I constantly focus on what I can't do that negative attitude means I never appreciate everything I am achieving in this moment. 

In January I managed to walk Pearl nearly everyday. I managed to plan out a whole novel and take part in Marian Keyes online novel writing workshops. I wrote blog posts for the first time in months. I lost weight, cooked healthy meals and got dressed nearly every day. These are all huge achievements and I am so proud of myself but I wouldn't be if I didn't take the time to look back and see what I am doing in this body right now. 

This is my mindset going forward, to always focus on the can do's. If there is something I can't do yet (yet being the operative word here) like my yoga, I shall put it away for another time. I will try not to give vital time and energy to the frustration it brings and instead focus on what my body is capable of in this moment. 

I know this will be different for everyone. Some people will have more severe issues or may be at the beginning of their chronic illness journey and the grief for your old life is still very much a part of your everyday life. I know this pain and it is important to allow yourself to feel it. The grief comes back to me all the time and I let myself be sad about it when I need to be. But to thrive and not just survive I think we have to focus on what we can do in that moment. Even if it's as simple as getting out of bed, changing to clean PJs and getting back in again. 

Living with chronic illness is a mission everyday but we are doing it. We are continuing and living and that should be celebrated. I won't let the pain of the can't dos take away the joy of all the can dos. I am proud of myself and all I am achieving in this body. 

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