Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Finding Balance When Battling Chronic Illness

One of the hardest things for me is balance. No, I don’t mean walking a beam like some Olympic gymnast. I mean the kind of balance every woman struggles with–work, home, family, friends, and self. There are things we HAVE to do, like make sure the kitchen is clean enough to not turn our children into radioactive mutants, and things we WANT to do, like crack open a good book in a bubble bath without the audience of our toddler suggesting toys and asking about our anatomy. Somewhere in between the have-to’s and the want-to’s is the fact that chronic illness means there’s just simply less of us to go around. So what do we do? How do we do enough of the have-to’s to keep up with life and still have time and energy for enough want-to’s to maintain our sanity and well-being?

Oh, wait, you were expecting an answer, right? I wish I had it all figured out. But I do have some ideas that have brought me some peace in this balancing act. I’m not hiding anything, though. I lose my balance and fall flat on my face plenty of times, and on the really tough days, I’m lucky to stand up at all. But for the day-to-day of life with chronic illness, these suggestions should come in handy.

First, prioritize. And I don’t mean the Martha-Stewart-Perfect-Homemaker kind of priorities. I mean really take a look at your day and decide what is most important. This will change from one day to another. On Tuesday, my priority is getting my home ready to host our weekly small group. That means my bathroom needs to be clean and the living room vacuumed. Those things are non-negotiable. What is non-negotiable on today’s list might be nonexistent on tomorrow’s. Remember those have-to’s and want-to’s? It is absolutely essential that you realize that sometimes your top priority is rest, relaxation, and pleasure. On Thursday, my top priority is getting some down-time with my family. Whether we get some fast-food so we can eat together without cooking while the boys explore the play area, or watch a movie over our digital streaming service with some stove-top popcorn, #1 on our list is each other.

Second, enlist help. Yep, humility is a necessary ingredient of balance. Some of those have-to’s are just more than you can do on your own. For me, my first line of defense is my husband. We have a housework checklist laminated and color-coded, divided by day, so he can take a glance, see what still needs to be done, and lend a helping hand. That way I don’t have to lovingly and gently suggest what he help me with (that’s right, I never nag…ha!), and together our house is company-ready without either of us being overextended. And on those days where your #1 priority is lying down to get some rest, enlisting help will ensure that the rest of the have-to’s in your world get taken care of while you take care of you.

Third, plan ahead. When you’re feeling well, take advantage of the extra energy and enthusiasm to prepare for the inevitable bad days. One simple thing I do is to cook double-batches of whatever I have on the menu for supper. Then I freeze back the extra portions so we can have home-cooked, nutritious food even when I’m not feeling well enough to cook. You can even follow Step 2 by having your hubby nuke the frozen supper, and if he’s truly wonderful, he’ll even entertain Little Tyke so you can take that bubble bath without an audience after all.

Now I have the theme song of a popular preschool cartoon involving a bear and three special steps running through my head. In that show, in three tritely simple steps, all is well. The real world doesn’t exactly work that way. Like I said, I fall flat on my face plenty of times. But I do believe these three suggestions will help us all achieve a little more balance in our lives. Best wishes for clean kitchens and quiet bubble baths!

Katie
Indiana
Guest Writer

About Katie: Katie is a wife, mother of 2 young boys, a middle school special education teacher, and battles Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome aka EDS.  You can read more posts by Katie on her own blog, For Such a Time as This

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

4 comments

  1. Thank you Katie for sharing your article with us. It’s so difficult to keep balance when a person is constantly feeling “off”. Sometimes it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks but I will try your “3 step program”! The hardest thing for me to do is “me time”. I see so much that needs to be done and with a husband who is ill cannot help much at all. I really hate to ask for help. I would ask if my house was clean! HA!
    Katie, you are a joy to me! Your encouragement and enlightened words are always so special to hear. Even though I’m tired and worn, I’m never so out of it that I don’t think about you, Nathan and boys. I’m never so out of it that I do not pray for you. Though sometimes it’s close, I refused to not think about my children and grandchildren.
    I know our God will bless you, Katie. Thousands of times over and over! You are a blessing to so many people and we love you extremely!
    Love,
    Mom P

  2. Great article! Needed to hear and hear again your 3 steps. Trying to be supermom, woman, volunteer, friend, is exhausting when you are feeling great but next to impossible for me right now fighting breast cancer and all the lovely treatments that go along with it. Hard to let go and admit you can’t do it all and admit that some things will just have to “wait til later”.
    Thanks for your article!
    Melissa

  3. Love and relate to your story. I have been less then healthy for the past 9yrs. My kids dont know or remember me as a healthy mom as they are 10 and 14yrs old. But being sick and having limited energy has given me the greatest gift I could ask for. It has given me time with my kids to just sit and talk or snuggle. We cherish every moment we have together and lifes not about where we can go or what can we go do, but its about being together. My house is not perfect and somedays its worse then others.
    I have bad days when I feel down and sick of being sick and tired but then I think of those in my life that have their own strugles and how they deal with it builds me up to keep going another day. So as my dad always says we just take it “one day at a time”.

  4. I love this article, the way it was written, and everything about it. Although I am not a mother, I can completely relate in the struggle of finding “balance” in the many aspects of life, while living with a chronic illness. This article gives me hope that it’s okay to not always have it all under control, and that it is possible to maintain a life of some normality, even while juggling it all. Something tells me these 3 steps may also come in handy in the future, when I do become a relation on that home and family level! (: Thanks for the article, and best wishes to you!

    -Melissa K.

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