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5 Things You Should Remember to Do in the New Year If You're Chronically Ill

I felt obligated to write about a survival kit for people with my illnesses for this upcoming New Year, because I have people that come to me and are in disbelief of the things that I have been through “health wise.” They look to me for strength and guidance, and I just let them know that life is worth living – even if at time its doesn’t feel like it. Most times I struggle and can’t figure things out, but I believe in a higher power, which helps me get through it all.

So, without further ado, my “sorry, not sorry” survival kit for 2018:

1. Give yourself a break. If there is anything that I have learned since being diagnosed with mixed connective tissue diseases (which is rheumatoid arthritis and lupus) is that I need a break, sometimes all day long. I am a mother and wife, so everyday I always have something that needs to be done. Some days I feel useless, and that’s totally OK. I mean, my body is at war with itself constantly. Most days I have to say to myself before anything else, “Give it a break lady. Let’s tackle the world after this nap.”

2. Learn to forgive others. I know this is something that is good to do in general, but when you have an invisible illness people tend to think they know your body better than you do. We all know this is not true and getting upset about it does nothing but trigger your body to tense up, which is going to cause a flare down the line. I like to take the other Michelle’s I run in to, also known as people who swear they know my illness and body, and teach them something. There is a lot I have learned and a lot I would love to teach! By the end of the conversation I end up with an, “Oh my God! I’m so sorry,” or, “Wow. I can’t believe you deal with that every day.” Then I politely follow up with, “Yeah, I know I’m the shit!”

3. Laugh out loud. Being a mother, there are days where I can’t get out of bed to help myself, let alone my children. It’s super frustrating, but my children understand that mommy is sick and some days she can and some days she can’t. I often must remind myself that I was given this disease to make something out of it. Even though out of the 365 or 364 days of the year I only get about 100 days where I don’t have to hold back, which is fun. Even if I know I will be paying for it later, sometimes its just worth it. I am realizing that is the nature of this beast, so on flare days I try and find every reason to laugh, maybe even laugh so hard I cry – even if it’s a little inappropriate. Tis the season to laugh, just because some days it hurts.

4. Love yourself. Some days my skin looks like chafing sand paper. Some days I would like to cut all my hair off, then glue yarn to my bald head because it would be a better than the hay I have. Some days I feel like everything I go through is not worth it and want to give up. Learning to love yourself despite having an autoimmune disease that is basically taking your life from you takes practice. It’s very frustrating to have to explain yourself and your illness all the time. No matter what there is only one you, so why not love every single part of it? I love me no matter what.

5. Do what’s best for you. I found myself feeling pity for myself because I couldn’t do what everyone else is able to do. I had to stop comparing myself to others, I am not everyone else. When you have an invisible illness, doctors tell you what to do constantly, loved ones try and tell you what to do and feel. There is no one in the world who knows what’s best for you other than you! Having an autoimmune disease doesn’t make you less than anyone or anything, if anything it makes life that much valuable and sweeter.

To all my people dealing with mental illness, autoimmune diseases and chronic pain, let’s make 2018 the year of me!

Doing what makes me happy

Doing what makes me feel good

Loving me above all else.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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