The hardest thing to find in life is balance. Even without dealing with a chronic condition, it can be hectic. Throw a chronic illness in the mix and it becomes extremely difficult to have a life that is in harmony. When someone finds themselves dealing with Lyme disease or other chronic conditions, it is a long road of ups and downs. Some days you feel worse than others, and this not knowing how you’re going to feel from one day to the next, becomes a social life killer. I personally have had to cancel plans, get togethers, trips, miss out on special occasions and holiday gatherings because of symptoms that come unplanned.
The question is, how do you balance friends and a social life while suffering from a chronic illness?
Plan for recovery: For me, if I go out with friends or do something that I know is going to be very strenuous and cause stress on my body, I make sure that I plan to have enough recovery time. The next day or 2 or 3, (or sometimes even a week depending on the activity), I have to allow my body to rest. Rest and relaxation is very important when you are suffering with any kind of illness and is very important in order for your body to heal itself. In addition to relaxing, I will also try to do things that help my body recover, such as Epsom salt baths or doing some yoga or meditation, or maybe even getting a massage/energy healing the next day.
Invite them in: If your friends are understanding about your condition, you can invite them to come to you and have them hang out and watch a movie with you, have lunch, etc. If you can’t go out, let them come to you. One friend of mine, who also suffered from Lyme but is now fully recovered, always offers to come drive out to see me and she lives quite a distance away, so it’s always nice to get a visit from her. But then, I would also drive out to see her when I was feeling up to it.
Rest before: When you have more formal events to attend such as a wedding, shower, etc., be sure to give yourself plenty of rest beforehand. Also, try not to do any aggressive treatments/supplements right before the event so that you are not herxing or flaring. It might be a good idea to do an Epsom salt bath the day or night before. I found that it’s always a good idea to give your friends/family a heads up if you are having a bad day so that if you have to leave in the middle of a function they will be more understanding about unpredicted symptoms.
Know your triggers: If certain events and situations aggravate your symptoms, try to prepare for or avoid them. For example, if you have light sensitivities and your friend suggests a movie, suggest another activity that is easier on your body. It’s about the time together, not the activity.
Now, if you’re like me and you are good at hiding how you feel and you are the type of person who pushes themselves even though you know in the back of your mind that it’s probably not a good idea, then I strongly recommend that you refrain yourself from trying to do more than you can handle. I know that it’s easier said than done and sometimes we feel pressured into doing things, but sometimes you have to be selfish and do what is best for you and if that means staying home and resting every once in a while, then that’s ok.
On the other hand, most people wouldn’t even consider getting out of bed if they were experiencing the pain levels that most of us with Lyme disease are experiencing. You don’t know if you can do something until you try. You may have to force yourself but start out slow. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I’m lying in bed, or if I’m moving around, the pain is going to be there no matter what. Why should you let it stop you from living your life? I know that this is easier said than done and it’s hard to just ignore the pain, but we have to train our brains to think positively and keep telling ourselves that we are going to conquer this disease. Just because you attempt to engage in normal activities does not mean that you’re having a good day, it just means that you are choosing to be stronger than your illness. You can’t always let it win!
Unfortunately, life is always going to be a balancing act, whether you’re dealing with an illness or not. Try not to worry about losing your friends, because if they are “true” friends they will stick by you. All you can do is try your best and stop worrying about what the rest of the world is going to think.
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