Thursday, September 16, 2010

Doing a "Good Job" of Being Sick

A while back, the title of a book caught my attention: "Being Sick Well: Approach Illness With Dignity, Adopt a New Attitude, and Find Hope Through it All". Being the typical Type-A personality buried beneath limited energy (which means I never get anything done to the perfection I really want), I immediately thought, "Hey - being sick well? I'm game! If I've got to be sick... why not do it the right way?" I purchased the book, headed home at a snails pace, and armed with highlighters of every color, curled up in bed with my treasure-book full of answers. I was asleep before I opened the front cover, thoroughly exhausted from my simple outing.

Two years later, a new doctor, a diagnosis and new successful treatment, and a recent major downsize to a small condo had me unpacking boxes when I stumbled across this book, still unread. Well... sort of. I've read the first two introduction pages. Today. When I wasn't feeling well.  Then my body gave out and I fell asleep. See a pattern? I'm sure many of you can relate. There isn't enough energy left to do everything I want to do so doing a good job of being sick seems like a paradox.

I think this haunts all of us who are ill and who want to do well in life. How can we be sick "well"? Is there such a thing? How can we live a life that is abundantly more than we could have ever dreamed of - blessed beyond measure despite the daily, hourly, or minute-by-minute reminders of the illnesses that eat away at our resources of time, energy, emotions, and finances.

I have started this journey toward "wholeness" despite being broken physically by downsizing. My friends have all laughed at me because despite giving away a 28 foot moving truck full of "stuff", I didn't downsize enough. So I am still getting rid of stuff that I can no longer physically care for. I live in a condo that is less than 600 square feet, and though I initially fought the idea of letting go of things that I thought meant something to me emotionally, now that I've made this transition I am so thankful. Though I'm still unpacking, sorting, and tossing stuff out, it takes me less than an hour to clean my home including the floors and bathroom. In finally accepting the limitations and creating a new living environment, I am able to spend precious energy that would have otherwise been spent on a larger home on things that are far more important. For me - step one toward "being sick well" was admitting that living in and caring for a large home was no longer an option.

Another thing I've found successful was to stop fighting my body and start listening to it. Many of us were told "There is nothing wrong with you" or "It's all in your head" when we were on our journey toward getting a diagnosis. As a result, we tend to try to push ourselves through flare-ups rather than listen to the cues our bodies are giving us. This is something my Rheumatologist has been preaching to me- "Be kind to your body." It took months of my doctor preaching this to me before I stopped feeling guilty for resting when my body says "rest".

One of the most important things has been to stay connected with my girlfriends. I have girlfriends that I talk to on a daily basis and those friendships are my lifeline, especially when I am too sick to go out. They add joy to my days, laughter to my life, and sunshine to the darker days. They are gifts from God, and I encourage each of you out there to let your friends in and be authentic with them.

I am so far from being close to doing a "good job" of being sick... it's a work in progress. But I am determined to live my life to the fullest despite being placed in a body that is not what I want it to be. I think all of us who live with chronic illness want that... that's why events like Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and groups like Rest Ministries and those found on Facebook and the blogosphere are so important. Each one can reach one - we can share what we've each learned and help one another along the way.


  1. OMG I am so glad we've been introduced! I have SOOOO been there as I struggle with the same diagnosis as you, and feel blessed that I've learned from being in pain too. I recognize so much of what you have texted to me and wrote here. I've learned and gained so much during this journey that started when I was young too. You are a great inspiration to me (although I think I was probably diagnosed a decade before you)! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am not downsizing nearly as well as you but I keep working on it. It's all a "work in progress" I am proud of you! Thanks for blogging for #iiwk11 too!

  3. Wow, I hear you. Downsizing is a great concept. I ought to try it, one of these days when I have the energy. But truly, I have tried to simplify life out of necessity. Great blog!

    find me at:
    The Hope Post on facebook

  4. This is a great blog!! I also write about chronic pain and illness. I am following your blog and I hope you will check mine out as well. Keep blogging and keep smiling through the pain. :-)

  5. I so agree with everything you wrote here. I have been blogging about my journey with pain & illness too. I have a chronic inflammatory disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis.

    Recently, my husband and I cleaned and sorted our home & garage. Major task but I am feeling the benefits you mentioned -- it takes so much less time to keep it up and now I have time for the more important things in my life, like homeschooling my little girls and writing.

    Blessings to you!