On the long road to recovery from long term illness, there are going to be phases (days or even longer) when you feel stuck back in the same old mud. So I’m going to remind you now, because its so important to know this (and, believe me, I need the reminder too), that when this happens its not the same at all, it just looks that way – mud is mud, at the end if the day.
Important to keep in mind you are on a journey – we all are – and no two views are ever exactly the same from a moving carriage, whatever the appearance from the window. When it comes to recovery from illness, its so important to know that – deeply – and to hold onto it (and the word ‘chronic’ only ever got tagged onto ‘illness’ because we forgot this) to prevent that crashing feeling of demoralisation from sweeping in. None of us are stuck, we just allow ourselves to believe we are from time to time – but its so important not to.
First of all, look at potential triggers for the returned pain or whatever is back – is it suddenly particularly cold or damp, have you been over doing it, that sort of thing – in other words, be realistic with yourself and make appropriate adjustments. When it comes to seeking benchmarks of recovery, its always going to be the better-feeling times that feel most progressive, not the rough times which can feel (lets face it) like they are the same old crap every time. So, just because your pain or limitation feels the same as it always did, this means absolutely nothing unless you let it – which you shouldn’t. In other words, get into the habit of measuring your progress by the better times, not the ping-backs; and keep those better times on the surface of the mind so that they remain your reality; look at photos you’ve taken and think back to the great trip out you had out with the family the other day so that you keep it real for yourself that you will be back doing those things in no time. The more optimistic you’re feeling, the quicker you will get through minor set-backs; even the ones that feel like they are taking off their boots and preparing to hang around – it amazes me, these days, how contrasty parts of my life can feel and how I can be as rough as hell one day and really great the next but I would rather that than being stuck in the rough bits all the time.
Allow that triggers are still going to present themselves, even when you are on the very doorstep of recovery, and so the fact you have had a full blown flare-up does not mean you have landed back at the beginning, like the looser in a game of snakes and ladders. Sometimes the very reason a flare-up feels so lousy is that it is in stark contrast with how much better you’ve been feeling lately. Allow the contrast to present itself to you, it may have an important message for you about something asking to be addressed or as an opportunity for you to fully appreciate how far you have travelled (when you recall how you used to feel like this all the time and now its only once in a blue moon, or two days out of five, or whatever that ratio now is for you). Allow the successes to be seen…because that’s all they are asking for…and then celebrate them; you’ll be amazed how they then start to multiply!
A big one is to allow – simply allow that crappy day, or even week or month, to happen; move the furniture of life around to accommodate it, go easy on yourself and LOVE yourself for dealing with this. Don’t drama it up or share endless anecdotes with others about how awful you are feeling – that’s just wood to the fire – just let them know you need some extra consideration, some space and a little help and then let it go, before sinking yourself into living really gently…whatever that means for you. Know – very deeply – that this too shall pass and that you will be back in the sunshine of life again in no time, marvelling at how much better you are feeling overall, and how much more quickly you recover from these minor set-backs compared to the old days.
Know, if you can, that at some level this is all for you, that there’s a wonderful perfection in this down turn in how you are feeling that might be hard to put your finger on as its happening but its there somewhere, even if it was just your body’s way of getting you to slow down or even stop for a while. If you can’t quite deal with the idea that there’s something wonderful about feeling so lousy, try knowing (and appreciating) that when extreme symptoms present themselves, its because your body is rallying to deal with something on your behalf, its pulling out all the stops to repair and return itself to the level, so cheer it on and love it for all its round-the-clock efforts, work with it (rest, eat well, drink loads and supplement up) and stop fighting the flesh and blood vehicle that you live in – its part of your team so LOVE it, every hurting fibre of it!
Tips from me:
- Full spectrum daylight bulbs in your house – lots of them. These mimic natural daylight and really…do…make…a…difference to how you are feeling! Especially during the gloomy months, keeping natural light around you in your peripheral vision can reduce pain, help to energise and keep those morbid thought about how you are feeling at bay. In the UK, the best ones I’ve found are made by Ecozone and are available from Amazon.
- Get out of doors – every day! Aim for midday when its warmer/lighter in the winter months.
- Keep on moving; avoid the temptation to sit or lie down all day long without regular movement breaks – and if you can manage it, do some gentle yoga or stretches.
- Create ambient heat in your space, use a plug-in heat pad or hot water bottle and, if you have access to it, a dry (infra red) sauna can make all the difference.
- Extra magnesium – inside and out (a high-dose supplement and soaks in epsom salts). Bathing in pink Himalayan salt can also be super-beneficial – and add some lavender and clary sage to the water to make it extra relaxing.
- Drink water-water-water-water-water….and more water!
- Cultivate excitement! Without feeling like you have to rush at it guns blazing, allow your mind to embroider a daydream or project that you don’t allow yourself much time for normally but which gives you a stomach fizz and, if there’s anything gentle you can do to set wheels in motion, like a bit of internet research or some reading, allow yourself to do that, or pick up a paintbrush and let it flow…just as long as you don’t overdo it. Since you’re meant to be going easy and not expecting anything of yourself when you feel like this (!), anything you manage to achieve feels like such a bonus and automatically lifts the spirits. It’s quite amazing how far a feeling of excitement and unfettered creativity can transport you until, before you know it, you’re rolling along nicely again.