Why Small Victories Are Essential For Chronic Illness Sufferers

Once again, the beautiful Bethany has written an awesome post that will help many, many chronic illness sufferers. To read more of her stories, check out my guest post section! 

In the first few months of being stuck at home with chronic illness, I was unorganized and random with what I did. It was easy to let a day go by doing nothing but watching Netflix and Amazon Prime for 12 hours – with occasional trips to the window to make sure the apocalypse hadn’t arrived during the sixth season of Gilmore Girls.

I have tried very hard to change that with my daily checklist.

I’ve always made lists: if I’m going on holiday somewhere I make a list of everything I want to see; lists for food shopping; weekly to-do lists – even lists of things I have done to try and keep myself motivated. In short, there have always been a lot of lists. This doesn’t work for everyone, but I have found my daily checklist extremely motivating. Sharing this will hopefully show the physical, mental and emotional implications of having a chronic illness – and why it’s so important for us to celebrate the small victories!

 

List Item #1. Get out of bed.

This can sometimes be the hardest thing to do each day. I struggle massively with being able to sleep, so it can be easy to just nap on and off for twenty-four hours rather than actually getting out of bed and trying to make myself tired enough to sleep better that night. On particularly bad pain days I won’t get out of bed until the evening, then I’ll sit on a chair in the kitchen while my incredible boyfriend cooks. Then it’ll be watching a film together until it’s time for bed again. At least I’ve gotten out of bed though and seen another room and maybe, even, helped chop up some vegetables for dinner!

List item #2 Put some clothes on that aren’t pyjamas.

I’ve always loved pyjamas, and I’ve got a stupid amount of them at the moment. It’s important to me that I put something else on though. Even if it’s jogging bottoms and a baggy jumper, I’m technically ready to face the world and go outside – even if I end up not actually doing it. It makes me feel like a real human being and sometimes that feeling can make or break my day.

Listen item #3  Go outside.

I added this in when I realized that there had been a massive rainstorm where we live for days. My boyfriend had gotten drenched cycling back from the gym, and there was booming thunder. This rainstorm lasted for almost a week, and in that entire time, I didn’t go outside once. My brilliant boyfriend had done all the food shopping, and I hadn’t done as much as walk to the car to help him.

It was a wake-up call to the realization that allowing myself to become trapped in our small one bedroom flat wasn’t going to help my illness or emotional health. I wish I could write that it works and I go outside every day. I don’t though. Sometimes three days can go by until my pain is manageable enough to go out again but when it is, I always try my best.

Two other things on the list are there for very similar reasons.

List item #4 Make something

Making something can be helping to make dinner, or it can be making my great aunt a patchwork blanket. It helps me to feel I’ve achieved something. I feel as though getting out of bed and getting dressed has had a slightly positive effect on the world that day. Even if it’s the tiniest drop of water in the ocean, at least it’s something

Listen item #5 Read something.

I try to read for a similar reason: so that I don’t feel I’m wasting my time. I know there are lots of people who would say that reading and watching TV are the same thing but, as a literature student, reading helps me to feel that I’m still getting something out of each day.

Something that I stick to the least on my daily checklist is

Listen Item #6 Talk to someone on the phone.

My boyfriend is wonderful, and he’s turned out to be an incredible carer. He is the only person I see on a day-to-day basis. The idea behind talking to, or seeing, someone else every day was so that I could be reminded that there are other people in the world. It can also be difficult to think of what to talk about and who to call, but it does help to reach out, remind the rest of the world that I am still here, in my jogging bottoms and today I managed to walk to the corner shop!

I’m not saying that this list is helping my health. I don’t think that my chronic illness is being changed or fixed by this, but I feel the mental and emotional benefits have been incredible. It’s given me a structure and a focus to each of my days that I completely lost once I stopped working. It’s hard to follow and, as I’ve said, I don’t always follow it because I’m in too much pain or feeling far too sorry for myself. When I try to do as much as I can, though, it helps enormously.

If you have any similar techniques or daily targets that you use to get through each day, then please comment them below. You don’t need to have a chronic illness, and they don’t need to be the same as these, but it would be brilliant for more people to share their motivations to get through each day.

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