22 Legging Brands People With Chronic Illness Recommend

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If you live with a chronic illness that causes pain, sensitivity, bloating, swelling or nausea, it’s not always possible to throw on a pair of jeans or slacks. Many types of pants are made with coarse material and have seams that can dig into your skin and waistbands that can press into your stomach. If your illness or pain is flaring, the last thing you need is clothes that only exacerbate your symptoms.

Leggings and yoga pants can be tight and uncomfortable for some; however, for many others in the chronic illness community, they may be the only types of pants that are bearable some days. But finding the perfect pair of leggings can be difficult. They need to be the right material, length, shape, thickness, snugness, elasticity… and it all depends on what feels best to you.

To help you in your search for soft and comfortable leggings you can wear even on your worst flare days, we asked the Mighty’s chronic illness community to share their favorite brands of leggings. Here are their recommendations.

Just so you know, we’ve selected these links to make shopping easier for you. We do not receive any funds from purchases you make.

1. LuLaRoe

lularoe leggings

“[The] only [leggings] I have ever been able to wear are by LuLaRoe. When I’m flaring the breeze hurts my skin. Their line of leggings and some shirts and skirts are buttery soft. Unbelievable. I love them!” Elisabeth Winget Herrington told The Mighty.

I am overweight and [have] chronic pain. I am addicted to LuLaRoe clothes. They are all super soft and easy to wear so I can look presentable and comfortable even when I’m in pain,” Ronnie Sorensen said. Melinda-Donny Perkins added, “I like LuLaRoe because it doesn’t give me the uncomfortable tightness on my abdomen.”

To buy LuLaRoe clothing, find a retailer near you on this map.

2. Torrid

torrid leggings

I am a thicker female, and I prefer to get all my leggings from Torrid! The reason I love Torrid leggings is because they are very well made and in the summer they have cropped leggings that are thinner and breathable while in the winter they have full length thicker ones! Plus, it can be hard to find clothes when you are overweight and bloated constantly. My chronic illnesses cause a lot of issues with clothes for me,” Cori Bruce shared.

I just bought a nice pair front there and they are the comfiest pair I’ve bought so far. Instead of focusing on the way I look or being uncomfortable in them, I can focus on other things. One of the most important things when dealing with a chronic illness is staying comfortable… and I have never not felt comfortable in my Torrid leggings,” Emma Hooker wrote.

Buy the leggings above for $17.17 at Torrid.

3. Under Armour

under armour leggings

Kay Mehrer told The Mighty, “I love compression leggings. I have issues with my hip and they really help. Under Armour is the best I have found for the price. The material is thick enough to offer good compression and not so thick I get overheated.”

Kate B–k added, “I usually buy them at the outlets. They are so comfy, and they make many different thicknesses. They also last forever!”

Buy the leggings above for $44.99 at Under Armour.

4. Target

target mossimo leggings

“I’m pretty petite, so I tend to buy the girls’ leggings from Target. They don’t have super tight waistbands, and since they’re not too long, they don’t irritate my ankles,” Melissa Lee Mollica said.

Jess Outten said she likes “the Mossimo fold-over leggings from Target. They’re super comfy, have tons of stretch, and the fold-over makes me feel like I can hide the weight I gain during the times when my fatigue makes it impossible to exercise. I feel comfy in them but also cute!”

Buy the leggings above for $10 at Target.

5. Buskins

buskins leggings

I love them,” Brittany Umbaugh wrote. “The texture is perfect for my legs when nothing else can touch them.”

Megan Smith added, “They are super soft and comfortable and cost a lot less than LuLaRoe.”

Buy the leggings above for $18 at Buskins.

6. Gymshark

gymshark leggings

“They fit well if you are like me and are extremely underweight – no other brands make leggings small enough! They are super soft and very stretchy too. They are the best I have found by far! The sizes work too if weight is inconsistent. They range anywhere from $25 to 50 and they are a UK brand that ships easily to the US and anywhere else! Highly recommend them!” Rachel Meier said.

Buy the leggings above for $38 at Gymshark.

7. Lululemon

lululemon leggings

I’ve been gifted a few pairs of lululemons and they’re perfect for me. I know they’re very pricey. I’d never buy them for myself, but if you have a generous gift-giver in your life, I totally recommend! They have so many options with wide, high-waist bands, which I love for endometriosis pain, and they come in cozy sweater-ish knits… not to mention, they last forever!” Tyffanie Elizabeth wrote.

Nicole Carfagna added, “I use lululemon because they’re tight (which helps with POTS from a compression standpoint) and last so long! I’d rather spend a little extra if it’s something I know I’ll be wearing a lot and especially if it will help my health in any way.”

Ashley Q. Cruz recommended shopping in the “we made too much” section to find the best steals.

Buy the leggings above for $98 at Lululemon.

8. Old Navy

old navy leggings

Sarah Elizabeth said, “They’re almost always on sale, they don’t get ruined in the wash and they don’t rip. I wear them almost every day because of how comfortable they are. I have thick legs and it’s difficult to find leggings that fit me well/aren’t see through.”

“They are affordable, good quality, breathe well and come in a variety of sizes as well as fun patterns that always make me look a bit more put together than I feel,” Abby Mancini added.

Buy the leggings above for $12.94 at Old Navy.

9. Simple Addiction

polka dot leggings from simple addiction

Stephanie Peters said Simple Addiction “has amazing leggings and they are super affordable! $7.95 for solid colors. They feel very similar to LuLaRoe leggings but a fraction of the cost!”

Buy the leggings above for $9.95 at Simple Addiction.

10. Danskin

danskin leggings

I like Danskin because they’re affordable and comfortable! I don’t like compression style leggings, so these are more comfortable for me,” Liberty White said.

Liz Campbell said, “They have a wicking line, too, and they’re super affordable at Marshall’s, TJ Maxx and Walmart.”

Buy the leggings above for $32 at Danskin.

11. Fabletics

fabletics leggings

Steffani DiPilato said, “I love using Fabletics leggings! They have compression leggings that are great when my legs start to swell up. The fabric is also comfortable, so they are not terrible to be in, even when I’m in pain.”

Christiana Hays added, “I like how you can change the hem length on most styles. No more rolled leggings!”

Buy the leggings above for $19.97 on Fabletics.

12. VIV collection on Amazon

viv collection leggings

“Huge fan of VIV Collection on Amazon,” Melly Ann told The Mighty. “Soft and stretchy. And around $12 a pair!”

Buy the leggings above for $11.99 on Amazon.

13. Agnes & Dora

agnes and dora leggings

Kelly Lyn Williams wrote, “Agnes & Dora is a quality line. Similar to LuLaRoe but more variety in styles and if you find a pattern you like you can order it.”

Traci Rodda added, “Agnes & Dora leggings are my absolute favorite. They are super soft and don’t wear out too fast.”

Buy the leggings above for $22 by finding a representative near you.

14. Black Milk Clothing

black milk leggings

Lindsay Shechosky told us, “Black Milk leggings are so awesome. They have a great selection of styles, fabrics and patterns. There are even leggings that are fleece-lined (and have pockets) which are amazing for fall and winter flares. Some of the styles very easily pass as pants if you need to dress more formally for work. My favorite pair is a cropped/capri style in deep blue velvet. They’re easy to pair with loafers and a long and flowy blouse for a put-together but comfortable look.”

Buy the leggings above for $60 at Black Milk.

15. LC Lauren Conrad

LC lauren conrad leggings

Deborah Wagner wrote, “For me it’s about the fabric content. The more cotton the better. I like Lauren Conrad from Kohl’s. If there is rayon or polyester it makes my skin burn. I have allodynia and clothing options are so limited.”

Buy the leggings above for $14.99 at Kohl’s.

16. Spalding

spalding leggings

Spalding. I buy them off Amazon. The brand is great; they’re sturdy and long lasting. They have everything from ankle length leggings to bike shorts or capris. I love this brand,” Rachel Kaminski said.

Buy the leggings above for $18.99 on Amazon.

17. She’s Got Leggs

she's got leggs leggings

I’ve never had such comfortable pants in my life, and they stretch to accommodate swelling, bloating, weight gain. She isn’t kidding when she says the same pair will fit a size 0 and a size 12! I’ve met the business owner in person, and this is an amazing company!” Tori Hathaway said. “These pants are worth every penny and never lose their elasticity or become saggy. 100 percent recommend.”

Buy the leggings above for $20 at She’s Got Leggs.

18. Joe Boxer

joe boxer leggings from kmart

Sabriyah Shahbandy said, “Honestly and truthfully, Kmart’s Joe Boxer leggings are the best thing ever. Not just the price, but they are so soft and they fit like a second skin, like somebody has wrapped you in shea butter! I absolutely love them.”

Buy the leggings above for $11.98 at Kmart.

19. Charlotte Russe

charlotte russe leggings

Jessann Marie Eaker wrote, “Leggings are my life! I literally live in them. With pelvic, back and abdominal pain, I can’t tolerate jeans anymore. My favorite leggings are ‘high-waisted’ from Charlotte Russe. They’re 95 percent cotton and 5 percent spandex so they’re super stretchy. I can fold them over and it feels like I’m wearing yoga pants without the tag showing, and no lines.”

Buy the leggings above for $6 at Charlotte Russe.

20. Cuddl Duds

cuddl duds leggings

They can be used as long johns (thermal undergarments), active wear or cute leggings. I have problems with temperature regulation, and their leggings and thermal tops are breathable enough but somehow warm enough for however I’m feeling that moment,” Amber Nieves said.

Buy the leggings above for $36 on Cuddl Duds.

21. Tuff Athletics

tuff athletics leggings from costco

“Tuff Athletics! I get them from Costco seasonally. It’s a Canadian brand very similar to Lululemon that is way cheaper and washes really well! Plus the slim pocket in the waistband is perfect for my other brain (iPhone),” Michelle Simko wrote.

Buy the leggings above for $13.99 at Costco.

22. Adidas

adidas leggings

Adidas stretchy leggings and yoga pants are so wonderful! Comfortable, stylish, bright and unique, excellent quality, not too pricey and the softness can’t be beat,” Sami Jo Stoecker said.

Buy the leggings above for $50 at Adidas.

Have a brand of leggings you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

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5 Problematic Support Group Personalities (and How to Avoid Being One)

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For those of us who are chronically ill, one of the most common resources used today is the support group. Generally, this is a good thing but sometimes, support groups can become a clash of personalities.

 

Here are the most common yet problematic support group personalities and how to avoid being one of them:

1. The Debbie Downer

OK, support groups are designed for people who are experiencing problems. In this case, chronic illness or pain. Debbie Downers are the epitome of this. Every post is a litany of complaints and questions of “will this ever end?” and “why me?”

The problem with people like this is they have nothing to offer the group. Their posts are only drains on the group mentality as they don’t even want advice or suggestions. Every comment is met with “I tried that” or “I can’t take that because…” Debbies only want to hear, “I’m so sorry for you” or “You’re so strong to keep going through all that.” They want pats on the back. And don’t ever look to them for support or advice on anyone else’s posts. That’s not their style.

2. The Hijacker

Do you remember as a kid playing the card game War? The high card wins? There are people in support groups who, for some reason, jump in on threads for the purpose of hijacking it all while denying that’s what they’re doing. They just mention that they too have A and B but they also have C, or their version of A and B is so much worse. Then they’ll state that they don’t mean to shift focus (which they have obviously just done) but they want to note that many of the suggestions offered have not worked for them. Really?

Hijackers are a subclass of Debbie Downers. They will immediately get the “I’m Sorrys” and the “We’re here for yous,” all while denying that was the reason for their comment.

3. The Nature Goddess

These people usually post to be helpful but do so in a very forceful way. Their opinions are handed out attached to 100-lb. bricks of granola laced with references to different articles they view as proof of their point. The problem with them is they typically use aggressive wording when stating their opinions. Goddesses give the impression that the research out there on diet and natural remedies is as good as that done on drugs and pharmaceuticals in treating disease.

Some Goddesses also tend to use language that would scare anyone off taking a pill by calling them “poison” and making blanket statements about side effects. Understandably, they are passionate about their lifestyle and about treatments that work on certain parts of chronic illness, but Goddesses are good at causing confusion in support groups by the very nature of what they present.

4. Pill Pushers

Opposite of Nature Goddesses, but just as harsh, Pill Pushers strongly believe in medication as the only way to ward off flare-ups and progressions of these diseases. The problem with them is the fact that Pushers tend to believe in a certain medication over all others and will go to great lengths listing all the bad things and side effects of any other medication to get their point across. To them, the concepts of medications working differently for different people, or that what’s best for them isn’t necessarily best for all, are inconceivable. The fact that the side effects they list may never have happened or that there may be people in the group who have had great success on a medication they think is bad doesn’t matter to them at all.

5. Long Termers

(Yeah, me.) These people have been fighting these diseases so long that they have experienced almost everything people can throw at us. They have also tried so many medications, supplements, weird treatment options, exercises and whatnot that they can fall into the trap of thinking they know it all. Certainly, Long Termers know more than the average bear. They have seen a lot work and have seen a lot more fail. They tend to want to make sure the “correct knowledge” gets out there. Which is problematic in itself because “correct knowledge” is actually different for each person. So Long Termers end up taking on more people than they should by trying to correct them and telling them the right info. And people don’t always take that well.

With these five personalities found in pretty much every support group I’ve been in, the only way to combat them is to be aware of your own behavior and reactions. Avoid being a Debbie or Hijacker by watching the number of posts you write about your negative stuff. Yes, the group is there for us to vent and complain, but in truth, the more we offer help and support to others, the better we feel! In reality, a group that is designed to offer us something we may not have in real life is actually an alternative treatment itself! And let others have the spotlight if they started the thread. It’s their pain, their issue. We can have our turn in a different post.

As for our Goddesses and Pushers, they both need to take a step back. I have seen way too many posts from both go very wrong. And I am not above admitting I have been involved in some of those because I have taken offense at some of the claims made. It has always come down to wording. There is no cure for us, only times of remission. None of us should present our path as a cure. We should also avoid fearmongering by labeling medications as poisons or as things with side effects worse than the disease.

Long Termers need to watch their words as well by withholding comments at times and also realizing there are lots of new treatments out there that weren’t available when we were diagnosed. In this situation, we don’t know it all! We all need to realize that presentation counts because no one likes a know-it-all! (Yeah, kinda directed at me…) We can only present what we have taken or are taking and how it has affected us. Period.

By keeping our posts diverse and our language neutral, we allow everyone to stay involved and open-minded. We also give them the ability to research their own choices and make their own informed decisions. And really, isn’t this what we all want anyway? Info and tips we can all research and make our own decisions on? I know it’s what I want…

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Rawpixel.

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The Photo That Shows My Everyday Life With an Invisible Illness

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There are many photos I wish I could post about my condition. I want people to understand what it’s like to be chronically ill – to have deep fatigue, brain fog, aches, pains, depression, and a myriad of other symptoms that you have to push aside each day. I put on a smile to hide my weariness that words can’t really describe.

My illness is invisible, which is both a blessing and a curse. An invisible illness, meaning one that ordinary people wouldn’t realize based on your appearance and lifestyle, is a blessing because I can have moments where I pretend to be “normal” and have a regular, healthy life like so many people take for granted. But on the other hand, an invisible illness is also a curse because it becomes so much harder to explain to people about my condition and harder for them to understand that I truly don’t feel well.

So what’s one photo I wish I could post? This one – me lying in bed, exhausted, achy, and unable to move.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and this picture shows a normal part of my life – an occurrence that has happened more times than I can count but is something I rarely talk about. I don’t know what it is like to be able to get through the day without having to lie down.

A photo of the writer, laying in bed.

This picture helps me admit that I still struggle with my illness, despite looking normal and leading a somewhat normal life. This picture helps me validate my illness, reassuring me that it is not all in my head.

This picture helps me share my story with others, encouraging them to realize that chronic illness is a battle I fight every day. Having support and understanding are two of the most meaningful things someone like me could ever wish for.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock Image By: anonymous6059

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10 Tips That Just Might Help If You Live With Chronic Illness

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After a year of living with a chronic illness, I’ve learned you can never fully predict your day, the challenges that lie ahead and how the loss of control that comes with all of that can be very frustrating (especially for us type A personalities!). However, I have also learned there is a lot you can do to place the odds of a good or better day in your favor.

From peace of mind to symptom minimization, the list that lies ahead aims to provide some tips and strategies that I hope will help you minimize your symptoms, give you back some of that control in your life that is missing and most of all provide some hope that it is possible to make each day better, even if it’s in the littlest of ways. My motto is, any help helps! I hope you find this list, in whole or in part, helpful!

1. Fix what you can. So many symptoms don’t seem fixable. But don’t give up so quickly on this idea! For example, my condition gave me constant back pain. I finally saw a physical therapist and he worked wonders for reducing the pain to a near zero level of pain. This “fix” not only helped my back pain but I’m sleeping better as a result now too.

 

2. Accept what you can no longer do as best you can. Sometimes it requires daily focus – or rather, it requires you to refocus on simply doing the best you can that day. Your abilities will vary day to day but acceptance rather than anger and frustration will serve you so much better, as hard as that is some days.

3. Stubbornness doesn’t work. I am adamant that my limitations won’t affect the core aspects of my life. However, I can be as adamant as I want and the reality is I am not being realistic. The reality is it does – I can’t do what I want, when I want – or even at all sometimes. Back we go to acceptance… or at least working toward it.

4. Refusing to quit does work. I will continue to fight for more each day I can because while I’m still not achieving all I want, that refusal to quit attitude is definitely helping me achieve more than if I didn’t have it.

5. Do not be so hard on yourself. We have chronic illnesses. We can’t keep mentally punishing ourselves for our limitations. For me, I always try to do my best at everything I do. Now though, for some specific things, what I know as my best no longer is possible. I have to accept my new best and let go of my old best. And that is so, so hard! It can be defeating and sad – both feelings that are hard to deal with when you are fighting so hard each and every day to make that day better, more productive or less painful. The best we can do is to try to take these self-defeating thoughts off our plate. Our plate is already full enough. Accept and move on as much as possible in the moment.

6. When you have no energy the littlest of missteps can wreak havoc on your emotions. I can’t tell you how many times yet another spill has almost brought me to tears. Just getting some water can seem challenging enough some days. Then to have to clean up a mess. Yikes! Something as simple as a sippy cup with a tight cap from the dollar store can save you from cleaning up endless spills caused by a new lack of coordination.  Test out some solutions to these types of frustrating issues and you can avoid many such emotional moments.

7. Quietness is key! When you are trying to sleep, and finally get to sleep, you need to be able to stay asleep. Do whatever you can to minimize noises that will wake you. Ear plugs, noise-reducing shades, a fan, a white noise machine… Do whatever it takes to minimize the chance of a disruption to that precious sleep time.

8. A lavender spa mister works like magic. While I love scented candles, I’ve never been a true believer that these scents hold any “power” other than being pleasant. However, I do now. The days my spa mister is freshly supplied with lavender drops result in my best nights of sleep.

9. As tempting as it is, when you finally do venture out for some time with friends, don’t forget to keep your schedule or you may pay some harsh consequences. I used to think, heck, I’m having fun, I rarely get to, so I stay out a bit longer. For most of us with chronic illnesses though, you know this is likely a mistake that could cost you two or so days in bed or worse.

10. Take it one day at a time. Lying on your couch all day can feel like an eternity. Try to remember that even though these moments may be painful, you shouldn’t let them consume you. Don’t “what if…” about what this means for tomorrow, the weekend or even your entire lifetime. It’s just a moment… don’t overindulge in the value of that moment. Better moments are always ahead.

Anyone else have any tips? Please share! As I noted above, any help helps when you have a chronic condition!

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Dreya Novak.

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25 'Hacks' That Can Make Life With Brain Fog Easier

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Brain fog is one of the most frustrating symptoms that can accompany chronic illness. When your short-term memory and thought processes are impaired by either illness or medication, it can have a significant impact on your everyday ability to function. You may find yourself missing appointments, forgetting to pay bills or being unable to recall important names, dates or events.

To help those who struggle day to day with brain fog, we asked our Mighty community to share “hacks” that can help make life with brain fog easier. Maybe some of the following can help you navigate through life a bit more easily, too.

Here’s what the community shared with us:

1. “I carry my cell everywhere. It has all my appointments, addresses, mapping system (I sometimes can’t figure out where I am on bad days), phone numbers, to do lists, shopping lists and reminders to pick up my youngest. I would be lost without it.”

2. “Sometimes certain music can help, if my migraine isn’t too severe. Dance music with a steady beat is most helpful to me, but I think different things work better for different people.”

3. “Sticky notes! Seriously, [they] are the best thing ever. I write down phone calls (as I will forget who I’ve just talked to and what they said), to-do lists, things to remember, pretty much everything and then stick them in the appropriate places like on the fridge, computer screen, diary, my desk. Makes life heaps easier and I can throw them away when I’m done. Plus they come in heaps of colors so it helps cheer me up and as they are sticky I can put them pretty much anywhere, making them harder to lose.”

4. “I try to avoid driving on really bad days, if possible, and if I go out anywhere, having someone with me to tell me to grab my purse or (if I leave it at home) to remind me I didn’t bring it when I start freaking out, thinking I left it somewhere.”

5. “I have almost 50 pages loaded on my Safari that I can scroll through to remember what I was looking for/doing.”

6. “I never go to important places alone… doctor appointments, meetings, etc. I need someone there who is hearing all the information so [they] can jog my memory later, keep me accountable or help me remember future dates.”

7. “I use Cozi. It’s a family calendar app that both my husband and I can add things to. In addition to the calendar it has to-do lists we can assign to a specific person, shopping lists and a notepad. I can use it on all my devices and husband’s work calendar can link to it so I know where he is (he travels a lot).”

8. “I put things in places where I know I’ll see them to remind me to do something, because even though the phone sets off an alarm I could not remember what I was supposed to do.”

9. “Repetition, repetition, repetition! I’m constantly talking to myself. At the store if I need milk, I say milk with each step as I walk to the aisle.”

10. “I ask for printouts of everything: appointment reminders, info that was gone over, meeting minutes, etc. I need a physical copy or it’s likely to be forgotten.”

 

11. “I use my memo pad in my cell phone – often my fingers don’t work the way I want them to so I record voice memos to myself about things I need to remember or things I need to be doing. I listen to my memos when I get home – in front of my calendar – so I can get it written down.”

12. “Photo capture everything I can or take a picture of it. I go through my photos for the day in the mornings when it’s not full of sound in my house.”

13. “If I’m with someone who doesn’t [have] brain fog, I’ll ask them to remember something for me I’ll need to remember later.”

14. “Use games to stimulate your brain. I do logic puzzles and play video games, but crosswords, jumbles, word games like Catchphrase or even chess can help with exercising your brain and sharpening your cognition/memory. I also take notes or use spreadsheets when I play video games to help keep track of what I’m doing.”

15. “For the brain fog of zoning out and not remembering where I am or what I’m doing for a few seconds, I just take a deep breath and close my eyes for a second or two and try to let the words come to my brain instead of panicking because I can’t remember exactly what I was doing. Sometimes I have to move along and then it will come back to me; sometimes I never remember.”

16. “When I think of something during a conversation and I can’t say it right then, I hold my finger (yes, I literally just hold my pointer finger with my other hand) until I can say it. It actually does help me to not forget.”

17. “These days I use a paper planner. I used to use my phone, but I’d forget I had the note. I use the Ultimate Diary Planner which allows me to plan over the course of a week and mix my to-do lists with priorities and appointments without being too prescriptive with it.”

18. “I repeat my schedule like a mantra often during a day. Today is Monday, I am doing X Y Z. Tomorrow is Tuesday, I am doing A B C. Wednesday I am doing 1 2 3.”

19. “Cleaning my room helps me to organize my thoughts. Because when it’s a mess around me, it’s a mess in my mind. Seriously, it helps a lot.”

20. “My Lumosity app helps me work on retaining what brain functions I do have and sharpen those skills as much as possible. It’s my proactive way of planning to retain as much autonomy and independence as possible as I get older.”

21. “Repeating stuff helps. I always say someone’s name back to them when I learn it the first time, for example, or if I’m given verbal instructions, repeating them back to the person to make sure I got it right.”

22. “I always turn a light on above the oven if I am using the stove or oven. I forget to turn it off often. If the light is off, the oven is off.”

23. “Write everything down! Grocery lists, appointments, meetings, etc. Even then I still get anxiety about forgetting something important. As far as remembering if and when I’ve taken my meds, I bought a pill sorter shortly after being diagnosed. This has helped significantly to be able to double-check if I’ve taken my meds by simply looking at the container.”

24. “Texting so I can read what they said repeatedly so if I forget when I’m responding, I can go back as a reference.”

25. “Compassion for myself as well as for others.”

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How Taking a Long Mental Health Break Has Helped Me Heal From Chronic Illness

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At the start of the year I made a decision to retreat and hide myself away a little from life. I needed to break the cycle of fight and defensiveness I was in and spend some time on recuperation instead. In reality this meant ending a long-term relationship, moving back in with my parents and spending the vast majority of the year alone.

 

There was a deeper and more practical reason to do this – four years of hospital stays, surgery, never-ending symptoms, grief, anxiety, fear and the loss of all control – but all that is really beside the point! This was a decision I made confidently, following my gut and with a yearning for sanctuary and peace.

About eight months has passed now and so far, I wouldn’t change a thing. I spend almost all my time at home or in the office at my parents’ business down the road, where they pay me to “consult.” (N.B. I’ve learned this year that my family is my fortune.) In the evenings I sit in bed with my computer, browsing the web, depleting Netflix, reading and always attempting to write. A couple of times a month I make plans with friends and spend a few days exhausting myself before it’s back home to retreat again.

Life is slower. Life is quieter, life is easier. Life is predictable.

Yes, there are times when I get bored. Yes, I yearn for fun sometimes and yes, I worry time is slipping away from me. In actual fact though, for the first time in four years I am stealing back some autonomy in my life. I am calmer and kinder to myself and I am learning life can be found everywhere, even here. My social anxiety is still high – I’m tackling that in smaller doses, but my fears and worries about the future are fading. I’m coming to terms with the fact there exists a “Who I Was,” “Who I Am” and a “Who I Will Be” and I’m beginning to enjoy the process of figuring it all out. I believe I’ve found the first step up and/or forward and I dare say, I’m feeling a little excited again. Furthermore, my symptoms are almost nowhere to be found. My pounding, exhausted heart that has delivered me to the emergency room countless times has gone undercover for the time being – it seems we both needed a break, a retreat, a hideaway.

Although I will never be cured of my physical health condition and I cannot fight the truth that one day it will take my life, I have for the first time realized how much more significant my mental health is, especially in terms of defining the fundamental experience of a good life. People talk of taking a Mental Health Day from work… well, I’ve taken a Mental Health Year from life, and it is curing more of my ailments than my medication can.

In a recent conversation with my adventurous, wild and wonderful younger sister, she expressed concern for how I have been living this year. She urged me to push myself more and get myself up and out of this funk I am in. I fully understand in her eyes it probably does seem like a nightmare – her own personal fear of what loneliness, boredom or defeat might look like. For me though, this is exactly the life I should be living right now and I need everyone who loves me to know that. I need you to know I am OK, things are going well and this is right – even more than that, this is working.

It is very hard to be different and it is even harder to live differently. But the life I am living is mine and mine alone and I am learning to trust that once again, I’m back in control of it… and that, well, that is the biggest and best difference of all.

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Thinkstock photo via Anna1000Arts.

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