I admit it, there has been a time or two where I’ve used having a migraine as an excuse to end a social engagement early. It was easier than simply saying “I’m not having fun and I don’t want to be here anymore.” I felt like it wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, where admitting I wasn’t having fun might.
That said, being completely forthright is something I’m really working on. Perhaps I say something a little more tactful than “I’m not having fun,” – the reality is that most people don’t care. You can simply say “I’m going home now” and most people won’t bat an eye or make your feel bad.
Using your illness as an excuse to avoid social engagements isn’t what this post is about though. It’s about more than that.
What I’ve learned is that in life there are really two types of people, those who work their butts off with zero excuses (sometimes to their detriment) and those who don’t. The latter group many times will find an excuse for everything, whether it’s an illness or something else entirely.
As I’ve spent the last year and a half building Chronic Illness Bloggers – a network of bloggers who all have chronic illness – I’ve seen this as a recurring theme.
Most of the bloggers I’ve worked with fall into the former group. They work hard, and often take on way too much. They know it and will readily admit it. When they are late with an assignment they don’t make excuses, they own it. In the rare instances where I’ve had to tell them I couldn’t allow them to take on more work, they’ve been more than understanding.
On the other end of the spectrum, though, we have those who will miss deadlines and don’t bother to reply to emails. When they do reply it’s with something like “deadlines are hard when you have chronic illness.”
No. Deadlines are not hard when you have chronic illness, but life is more difficult when you have chronic illness. The key is in understanding your limits and not taking on what you can’t handle.
Chronic illness makes life much more unpredictable for all of us. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t follow through on commitments you make. What it does mean is that you plan differently for them.
When you have a chronic illness you know that there’s a good chance that your health will take a turn right before that deadline hits. So, instead of waiting till the last minute to do whatever you’ve agreed to do, you plan ahead and you work ahead.
- Don’t take on projects that have deadlines you know you can’t meet. If you’re given a deadline that just isn’t within your realm of reason, then you either don’t take the project or you address the deadline from the beginning and work towards a resolution.But, you don’t put off the work till the last minute and then blame your inability to meet that deadline on your illness. It’s not your illnesses fault that you are late, it’s your inability to plan and prepare properly.
- Do plan ahead. Begin planning for the deadline the moment you take on a task. When I was younger I was a terrible procrastinator (wait… I was a great procrastinator! I was excellent at it!). I put off most school assignments as long as possible, and yet somehow I still managed to deliver A and B level work. I have no idea how I did it.However, after chronic illness became part of my life I realized that couldn’t continue. In order for me to deliver quality work, I had to begin an assignment as early as possible. I found it helpful to break projects down into smaller pieces that I could work on over time, allowing me to usually have a project complete ahead of time. This removed stress from my life and allowed for higher quality work.
- Don’t take on more than you can handle. I’ve noticed that many of us with chronic illness are Type A people who want to do all the things! We say yes to everything. I’m guilty as charged. But, we can’t do it all and the more we try the more likely we are to be overcome by the stress that comes with doing too much.
- Do use your tools – I was never much for to do lists and keeping a calendar before I became ill, but these days I can’t live without either of them. If it’s not on my to do list it won’t get done. And, if it’s a due date or an appointment it best be on my calendar or I will miss it. I also have to be very careful to actually look at my calendar when planning things or I’m notorious for double-booking myself. We have so many amazing tools at our fingertips but we do have to remember to use them, or they are worthless.
- Do know when to say No – I seem to ride this like a roller-coaster… I’ll say no to everything for a while then get fed up and start saying yes then tip things the other direction too far and start all over again. I guess it’s more like a see-saw… either way it’s not a ride I should be on. I need to shoot for the balance beam instead. Life is all about balance.
In the end it all comes down to pacing yourself. Don’t take on too much as that leads to nothing but spreading yourself too thin and causing others to see you as a flake or unreliable. You are hopefully neither of those, but if you are it’s not your illnesses fault… it’s likely that you were already that way before.
Before you get too pissed off at the above statement, please let me clarify that I’m not talking about things that you can pencil into your calendar and say “you know I’m not sure how I’ll feel…” I’m talking about actual commitments where others are relying on you.
You know your limitations, so don’t commit to things you know you can’t handle. If it’s not possible to just pencil it in, or to plan ahead so that you can get the job done on schedule or ahead of schedule, just say No. It really is that simple. Choosing to do otherwise, just leads to stress for yourself and for others.You know your limitations, so don't commit to things you know you can't handle. Click To Tweet