The Coping Mechanisms I've Put in Place to Help Future Me Through Health Flares
If you watched the TV series “How I Met Your Mother,” you might have seen an episode where Ted and Marshall put things off for their future selves to deal with, referring to Future Ted and Future Marshall. I kinda liked that and often joke about having faith that Future Laura will sort that out… She’s pretty awesome that Future Laura, I can leave most things for her to deal with!
However, I’ve realized there are times when I really need to look out for Future Laura as I don’t always know what else she’ll have to cope with and really, if I don’t look out for her when I can, I can’t expect others to.
Last year I started taking anti-anxiety medication. It wasn’t something I wanted to be on forever but it was something I knew I needed to help me cope in the short-term. I’m still on them and check in regularly with the doctors who are happy with my progress and happy for me to continue with them, for now.
From the beginning I viewed the pills as giving me a breather – something to give me some time and headspace to get other coping mechanisms in place so that when I came off the pills I wouldn’t feel I had nothing else to support me.
As it’s turned out, some of the things I put in place have helped this Future Laura (now Present Day Laura) for a different reason. In the last few months I’ve been aware my ME/CFS has been flaring up again. It’s still mild…with perhaps a smattering of medium every now and then (knock on wood – so far I’ve only lost one day off work), but it’s definitely worse than it has been for quite a long time. However, thanks to Past Laura, I have a lot of great coping methods to help me through this time. So thanks Past Laura for:
I don’t think I’ve ever hidden my ME/CFS or any of the other invisible issues I’ve had over the years – depression, anxiety and depersonalization syndrome (good grief!) – but I’ve definitely been more open in the last year about what it really means, how it impacts me and how I’m coping/not coping with it all. That’s really helped me now as people around me know it’s OK to ask questions and talk to me about it. They know I am happy to talk and they already know some things so they know what to look for, how to help and what it really means when I’m having a bad day. Knowing those around me understand what’s going on helps enormously.
I don’t need to feel guilty (I still do a bit, though) if I have to cancel on friends and family because I know they understand why and will continue to ask me in the future. I don’t need to explain things when I have no energy to do so and they already know my worries so they reassure me before I get a chance to really overthink and stress myself out!
“Hygging” My Home
For my birthday this year, a good friend bought me “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.” (How have I not blogged about that yet?? *updates to do list*) I’m by no means finished with what I want to do with Hygge in my house but what I can tell you is that my home feels like a sanctuary when I need it most.
It’s peaceful, cozy, comfortable, comforting and relaxing. I have several different spots in my house (and others in my garden) which are perfect for relaxing in. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you may already know about my gorgeous yellow chair (god I love that chair!) or of course my sitooterie (it’s where you “sit” when you are “oot” in the garden obviously!) but it’s not just those spots. I have yummy little nooks and crannies all over my house which make me smile. Places I can sit, lie down, sleep, read, listen to music, craft and rest. Places that are positive and calming for me when my fatigue is bad.
To give you an idea, my living room is not big at all but yet it still has (quick count) 15 cushions, three blankets, 16 candles, six lamps, lots of books, artwork and photos, a big old rug and fresh flowers and plants. No roaring fire unfortunately, but hey, it still works for me.
Having Interesting Interests
My fatigue isn’t always at the same level. Sometimes I’m completely out for the count or utterly lethargic and unable to do anything but often, for me, I’m lucky enough to have some energy and can do some activities while still taking it easy. I have a need to be busy doing something. I’m a fidget and an impatient one at that. Crocheting, paper cutting and reading are probably my three favorite hobbies, and while it does upset me on days I can’t even manage those, they help satisfy my need to be doing something. They make me feel productive, creative and active on days when I am able to work on a new project or tick another book off my reading challenge. This is hugely important to me and I’m so grateful to Past Laura for stocking up on so many craft and reading supplies (and for building cupboards to hide them all in…seriously, I have so much wool!).
This might sound odd – aren’t we all online these days? Well, you certainly are, that’s how you’re reading this! What I mean is, being online allows me to stay connected with friends, family and the outside world on days when I can’t get there in person. Sometimes that’s hard as it reminds me I’m not there in person, but in balance it’s definitely a plus for me. I’ve also connected with many others with the same or similar health challenges and they are supportive, inspiring and helpful. I’ve learned a lot about ME through online connections and hope to become more involved with groups like Millions Missing Edinburgh soon.
An important last point to make…
None of this is to say I’ve done this alone. Far from it!! I have incredible support from so many people: friends, family, employers, colleagues, online communities and my doctors. I am so grateful for every message of support, offer of help and reminder that I’m not alone. However, even with all this support, it still feels really important to me to know I am able to help myself too. I guess one of the things that frightens me most about ME/CFS is the memory of a time when I just couldn’t look after myself and the possibility of returning to that place.
But for now and with all that in mind I’ll finish up by saying, thanks Past Laura, and don’t worry Future Laura, I’ve got your back!
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