When I was in grad school I felt guilty about missing family functions, anniversaries, birthdays and holiday gatherings. I was often plagued with the thoughts that I would miss out on precious moments my nieces and nephews were having, afraid my family would look at me differently. That was until my father gave me this advice: “Be as selfish as you can in your 20s. Do everything you want, date who you want, take time for yourself, because once you get married and have kids, it’s no longer about you.”
I feel like this especially applies to those who are dealing with a chronic illness in their 20s. It was really bad once I started to make friends in D.C. The bevy of activities are endless, which is great, but that also means I’m going to be one tired millennial at the end of the day. In our 20s, we seemed to be obsessed with the idea of having it all. And why not? We’re starting to make headway at our first “big boy” jobs and have a great social life all while trying to date and make relationships work. It’s a lot, I’m not crying about it; it’s just overwhelming if you think about it.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I tend to go back to my father’s advice on being selfish. What he was essentially telling me was to practice “self-care.” As someone living with lupus, I now know what triggers flareups in my body. My main trigger is stress. It’s amazing how a stressful day can turn into not being able to walk the next morning. I’m learning to avoid things I know are going to stress me out. So If I can’t make it to my work happy hour because I know drinking plus getting home late on a weekday will make the rest of my week pure hell… I’m not going to go. Also, that hiking trip that has the potential to cause so many flareups I’m afraid to count them…sorry, probably not going to participate. I’m also not going to let the stress of F.O.M.O (Fear Of Missing Out) get to me as I’m having a “Batman” marathon at my apartment instead of going salsa dancing (which I actually love to do).
Give yourself a break. Do some breathing exercises, meditate, go for a walk, do some yoga. The one thing I can do to counteract some of the damage done to my body is sweating out the stress at the gym. It takes a Red Bull and an entire Britney Spears album for me to get motivated to go, but I always feel better after. Do something for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s a balance and struggle, but your body will thank you. You can’t completely avoid stress, but you can control how it affects your life and your illness.
The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.