I am grateful for my good days. You know the ones - when body parts seem to be cooperating or at least not giving you too much grief. You are cheerful, productive, grateful and optimistic! You think, okay what am I doing right today? What did I eat yesterday? Can I repeat everything so I can have these good days all the time? Then BAM! You wake up the next morning and wonder how many cars were on the train that ran over you last night. If you can get out of bed, you can barely move and everything hurts. And if the pain and fatigue itself is not bad enough, you are crabby, helpless, bitter and mad. You don't even want to be around yourself so you know you'd better stay away from friends and family. Ironically, this is the exact time when you need friends and family the most.
And so the story goes day in and day out. You never know when you go to 'sleep' at night (and I use the term 'sleep' lightly - pun intended) how you are going to wake up in the morning. Will you be at the top of the roller coaster full of energy and optimism? Or at the bottom of the roller coaster looking up at the hill you must climb? Psychologically this makes a perfect recipe for bipolar disorder. If your physical pain does not drive you crazy the emotional highs and lows surely will.
Subsequently, I find that on my good days I am probably overly cheerful, grateful and optimistic (nobody wants to be around that either) so I tend to think I can conquer the world. Play catch up for all of my down days and solve the world's economic crisis at the same time. Then, you guessed it - crash and burn.
Finding balance is especially hard when dealing with chronic illness. Our highs are higher and our lows are lower than your average healthy person. Pacing ourselves is crucial to finding balance. As well as paying very close attention to our bodies and our moods.
It is recommended and I know a lot of us do keep a health journal. Writing down what we eat, how we feel and what our day consisted of can be a helpful tool in learning how to pace yourself as well as find balance. This doesn't have to be time consuming. It can be as simple as using a calender to assign each day a mood and/or pain marker on a scale of 1 - 10. Keeping a separate food diary where you record what you eat and time of day can also bring insight into what makes us feel better or worse.
Paying close attention to our bodies is especially important. With chronic illness, we tend to ignore so much. It's innate; I think it's a survival mechanism. We don't want to be constantly focusing on every single body part that squeaks but I think we do need to set aside some time in our days to sit still, be quiet, close our eyes and take inventory of what is going on in our bodies. Write it down and then move on. When I have done this and then gone back and read past entries I have been surprised by a lot of what I wrote because I had forgotten about this or that - these being recurring things that are worth mentioning to my doctor.
We also have to give ourselves a break. Not only physical breaks but mental/emotional breaks. First of all NOBODY is perfect even healthy people, so if your house isn't as clean as you'd like it (my hurdle) or you have to give up some things and/or give in to others, tell yourself it's OKAY. Just don't fall into the trap of doing it all the time and becoming truly lazy. We can give ourselves breaks but we also have to know when to get up and PUSH! Think of PUSH as Persevering Under Sorry Health and ask yourself, "Can I PUSH today? Or do I need to lay low?"
One last thing - chronic illness and depression go hand in hand. Be aware of the signs of depression. These include: prolonged sadness, apathy, social isolation, lack of motivation, and a feeling of hopelessness. Please don't be afraid to ask your doctor for help. You deserve to feel better.