Life in the Slow Lane:
From life in the fast lane to life with chronic illness
guest post by Samantha Taylor of Focus on the things you CAN do
There are a lot of people in this world that I like to call ‘Doers’. The people who are always on the go, say ‘Yes’ to most things asked of them and have a lust and energy for life that could tire the average person out just watching them.
These are the people who work full time, pick up extra shifts, and volunteer on days off, all while making meals from scratch every day, having several hobbies, and are always planning their next travelling adventure.
They might be Super Mums who care for their kids, whilst juggling work, uni, or a busy life in general. Who when they get a precious minute on their own or some spare time, can’t sit still and decide to paint the kitchen or totally revamp the garden.
The people who as well as having a massively busy, full life, manage to help their friends and family out when they are in need, going above and beyond to make sure they are OK, caring for sick relatives in their spare time and taking on managing other people’s lives whilst juggling their own.
Life in general today is very fast paced, we want everything and we want it now!
We can do most things in life quicker than ever before and the developed world is exposed to a 24/7 lifestyle. We can organize much of our lives at the click of a button and we end up cramming so much into our day that we barely come up for air.How do you handle it when your usually fast-paced days filled with activities, become days of silence, pain and crippling fatigue? via @CronicWellness Click To Tweet
What happens when someone who has always lived life at 100mph gets sick? What happens when your usually fast paced days filled with activities, become days of silence, pain and crippling fatigue?
I was one of these people. I went from being a busy Emergency nurse, who went on hikes, enjoyed horse riding, loved to travel, worked hard and played hard and was also a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
Almost overnight my life changed and I was suddenly faced with not being able to walk without pain, couldn’t work, was exhausted from the smallest bit of activity and was hugely frustrated at how different my days had become.
Below are some of the things that are important to me that changed in my life, and some of the things I have done to adapt to those changes.
One of the fist things that changed was my career. I worked in a busy Emergency Department full time when I suddenly started experiencing my chronic pain.
I’d worked so hard to become a nurse, that I was reluctant to give up on my career. I pushed and pushed myself to carry on, changing jobs, reducing hours etc but I eventually ended up losing my job when I ended up in a severe flare up.
Looking back, I wish I had taken a break from nursing and focused on myself instead of pushing myself and focusing on silly things like what others would think if I couldn’t nurse anymore and comparing myself to colleagues.
Sadly through the course of my illnesses I’ve lost friends. My life has changed so much, I can half understand it but it still gets to me. I used to be someone who was always socializing. I loved meeting up for coffee, was always organizing a night out, playing hostess inviting people round to our house, organizing random parties, weekends away, and just generally saying yes to pretty much any invitation from my friends.
Nowadays, especially in flare ups, I struggle to get dressed some days, never mind summon up the energy to go for a long walk and have lunch. I desperately want to be that person I once was, and I miss my friends terribly, but I just can’t do it.
I’m fortunate that some of my closest friends understand this, but others who I thought would understand, really don’t and its been so hard to accept that.
With a chronic illness, can come changes in the activities you once did regularly. I found it particularly hard to deal with at first, but have adapted some of those things so I can still enjoy them.
I ADORE walking. My body does not! It used to, but not so much right now!
Mine and my husband’s first date was actually going on a long walk with my Border Collie into the countryside and we continued it through our relationship on a regular basis until I got ill. Now if we are craving some country air, we often go for a drive and then just sit and enjoy it being out. It’s not the same, but it beats sitting at home.
I was by no means a gym addict when I got ill, but I kept fit with regular walks, fitness DVD’s, my treadmill, swimming, I used to be on the hospital’s netball team and I had taken up horse riding again which I had done for years as a child.
Sadly, this all suddenly changed when I became ill and it was hard to deal with. I gained weight, my muscles stiffened up and I became depressed. Before I was diagnosed, one of the possible things doctors thought was wrong with me, was herniated discs in my spine so I was advised total bed rest while I waited for a scan and Neurosurgery appointment, this is when I stiffened up and it was hard work to get back from that.
I have always had wanderlust, I have a Gypsy heart and I just want to see the whole world. I’ve travelled to some beautiful places, but I still want to see so much more. I did a Trek America ‘Coast to Coast’ trip in 2010 starting in L.A and snaking across to NYC and that was to be the start of me travelling more of the world. It was awesome.
When we married, we honeymooned in Dubai and Mauritius, but when I became ill, it changed our plans of saving up and travelling traditional back pack style.
But travel isn’t impossible, it’s tough and takes a lot of planning but it can be done, even if it’s not quite in the way I wanted.
Suddenly having a diagnosis with an illness that will be life long, is difficult for everyone, no matter how active a life you lead before, but can be more so for people who lead a very full and active life. My advice would be to take each day as it comes, work out what works for you and work hard not to compare yourself to others.
A few tips for coping when chronic illness takes you out of the fast lane
• Career – Be totally honest with your employer, join a Union, ask to move departments, reduce hours, look at a career break or change. Giving up a career you love is tough, I won’t lie. But sometimes it might be the best for your health.
• Friendships – Make sure your friends know what your illness is and how it affects you. Explain that you won’t be able to do everything you did before. True friends will respect that.
• Hobbies/Activities – See if there are any adapted versions of the hobby you loved that make it easier for you. If like me you like walking in the countryside, on days you can’t do it, take a drive out and park the car up, get out and admire the views so you are still getting the benefits of being out in the fresh air.
• Exercise – It’s a case of trial and error and seeing what exercises works best with your body and type of illness. There are online seated exercise video’s available, hydrotherapy and even classes such as Yoga for M.E/CFS available. Some GP’s/Family Drs offer exercise referrals to local gyms where you will have free or reduced cost exercise with a trainer monitoring you and tailoring your exercise to your health problems. See what’s available in your area.
• Travel – Plan, plan, plan! Start with a night away and see how you get on before thinking of longer trips. Give yourself plenty of rest periods and don’t cram too much into one day.
• Cooking – If you enjoy creating in the kitchen, try to make batches of meals to freeze on a good day so that on your bad days, you have a quick, tasty and nutritious meal at hand.
• Slow down – Learn to accept that you can’t do everything you did before. Trying to keep up will only make you worse and cause flare ups. Learn about ‘Pacing‘ and try to fit it into your day.
• Stop comparing – Don’t compare your life to others around you or to yourself before the illness. Others don’t have to live with the symptoms you do so comparing how they live to how you do, will only make you feel bad. Focus on the things you CAN do and feel good about them.Focus on the things you CAN do and feel good about them. via @CronicWellness Click To Tweet
I hope this has been helpful. The most important thing is to find what works for you and your specific health problem. The above are things that have helped with my particular issues so may not be totally perfect for you.
About the Author: Hi I’m Sam. I am a 34 year old nurse from Sheffield in Yorkshire, UK. My collection of chronic illnesses include; ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia, Scoliosis, Chronic Vitamin D deficiency, Haemochromatosis, Anxiety and Depression and I’m a recovered Bulimic. I’m searching for wellness and refuse to give up!
I’m a big fan of Counting my Spoons so am very pleased to have the opportunity to write a guest blog.