Part 2 of a Three-Part series on Chronic Illness
A couple of years ago I was an overcommitted workaholic, and I was destroying myself emotionally with constant, condemnatory self-talk. Then I got really sick.
Since contracting Epstein Barr two years ago and never recovering, the Lord has taught me so much about myself. For almost a year, I dissected my destructive habits with a Christian counselor, so I could get at the root of my critical workaholic tendencies.
Now I understand that I’m a woman of great worth to God, merely by existing. My value is not dependent on what I can produce. Academically, I already knew this, but applying it personally was difficult. I now work in a healthy way, stopping when needed. I now take care of my body, and I am no longer overcommitted. I rarely multitask.
The Lord has worked miracles in the last two years using the tools of biblical truth and my chronic illness. Given what you learned about my workaholic lifestyle from my last blog, you are aware that these adjustments bring special challenges.
Knowing when to stop is trickier than a healthy person would think!
This seems to be a simple rule: Don’t overdo it when you have a chronic illness. But the problem is multifaceted.
Do I really want to eliminate from my life indefinitely all spontaneity and the associated joy?
Do I truly believe that in this ever-changing world one day actually can follow another with no variation?
Since I’m a creative and curious person, can I carry out this type of monotonous existence?
Wouldn’t it contribute to the isolation and boredom induced by my chronic illness?
See the difficulty?
Good health is not merely physical, but is also social, mental, and spiritual. Therefore, I may need to overstep my physical boundaries to maintain the other three.
How do I do this with balance?
One recent day encapsulates the daily struggle.
During my Kickstarter campaign in June, I worked in a horizontal position on my office daybed, careful to take rest breaks, to eat and drink in a healthy manner, and to stretch, walk, and complete my physical therapy on a regular schedule.
In mid-June I added a once-a-week commitment: a few hours of prison ministry each week. The prison dictated the start date. Unfortunately, this coincided with 12-hour days for my final Kickstarter social-media blast. I got it done! The campaign was successful!
I knew I was pushing it, so I scheduled a vacation for the first week of July. Ten days into July I still had not recovered. Then prison ministry came at the end of a difficult week. Gratefully, that evening I had scheduled a massage, which usually redeems it all.
Enter spontaneity. Enter fun.
My daughter and my husband picked me up after my massage and wanted to take me out to dinner. Physically, I knew I needed to go home to soak in a hot tub. But, as I looked at them grinning, so excited and hoping for some fun with me, I thought, sure. Why not! The need for time with them and a change in the monotony won.
We had a delicious and relaxing meal, but a quiet solemnity enlarged within me – the sign that I teetered on the edge. My increasing fatigue contrasted sharply with their effervescent happiness.
Our downtown was cordoned off for a car show. Loud music was in full swing, the streets and sidewalks packed with boisterous people. As a result my husband had parked five to six city blocks away. They both encouraged me that it wasn’t far.
Leaving the restaurant, we waded back out into the noisy crowd, and my heart sank. My vision blurred. A deep flu-like fatigue settled into my core, and my pace slowed. I toyed with the idea of sitting on the curb and letting them retrieve me. Road barricades prevented it.
During the walk I grew internalized as fatigue shrank my world, an emotional blackhole to my husband’s cheerfulness, which began to annoy me. I didn’t want to ruin the evening, so I spoke softly, attempting to maintain pleasantness. I didn’t succeed.
I had passed the line. My spoons were gone. Two stops on the way home made it worse.
That night I slept ten hours. I spent the next day with a migraine, an aching body, and painful fatigue that felt like nails on a chalkboard. Another day exactly like it followed. I didn’t know how long this would last or if I had just set my post-Kickstarter recovery back even farther.
This is a typical predicament for the chronically ill. We must strive every day for the perfect balance of rest, work, healthy eating, and other health maintenance tasks. We also need to engage socially, and our time spent alone with the Lord is absolutely essential.
Since I usually feel wiped out, I try not to let the sensation of fatigue influence my decisions, unless I’m certain I’m at the end of myself. Unfortunately, I can’t always tell.
This is why I usually say “no” to outings or “just one more” activity. I wish it wasn’t like this, but it is. I must live within the parameters the Lord has given me. He is good, and my new lifestyle trains me in godliness, balance, and resting in him.
I’m glad I said “yes” to that special evening, even though I later paid for it physically. My mistake was to not cry out to Jesus for help. Had I not been self-reliant it would have made all the difference.
I’m only two years into this, and I’m still learning. The Lord is so kind and gentle. I know he will continue to grow me and to bring me to maturity.
Next – Part 3: Could Even This be for My Good?