Striving for Balance in the New Year With Chronic Illness

I know it’s cliche to do a post on New Year’s resolutions – like many people, I typically make a half-assed resolution I’ve given up on by March. But while New Year’s resolutions tend to get a bad rep, I do think that taking stock of the last year of your life and looking forward at how you can make things better in the next year is usually a pretty good thing. Even if that introspection only lasts you ’til spring, some work is better than none at all.

So what am I focusing on in 2018? Little things, like taking up kickboxing and recruiting friends to help me canvass for midterm elections. But also big things – my big, overarching resolution for the year to come is to strike a balance.

I spent pretty much all of 2016 very sick. Bed-bound sick. Steroids sick. Just-trying-to-make-it-through-the-day sick. In order to come to terms with that lifestyle, I steadily built up a very low-key routine. The excitement of my days was what smoothie I made, or what book I was reading, or what color I painted my nails. It was getting a bed-desk that allowed me to do work while laying down with a heating pad. It was a nice FaceTime with my sister and her dog, or my mom stopping by to take me to breakfast.

So when 2017 rolled around and my symptoms were starting to be semi-regulated, I decided I wanted to say “yes” to everything I possibly could. I wanted to be a normal 20-something again. I wanted to go out with my friends, and sign up for a personal trainer, and drink a bunch of vodka, and travel across the Atlantic. But at a certain point I began to worry that I wasn’t saying “yes” because I actually wanted to – I was saying yes because I was afraid of wasting valuable “healthy” time.

Needless to say, going from zero to 60 gave me serious mental whiplash. My illness was forcing me to live in a purely reactionary state – I was either laying low because I was ill and I had to, or going all out because I was feeling better and felt like I couldn’t waste it. That kind of mindset leaves little room for balance.

But that’s what chronic illness does to your way of thinking. When I’m well, I feel like a little kid in a candy store who needs to snatch everything up before I get caught. I need to do all the things and have all the experiences before a new flare comes and forces me back into early nights and slow weekends. But what that lifestyle has taught me this year is that living like that just isn’t me. The activities I associated with being in a flare – staying in to watch a movie, or write, or meditate – are things I wholeheartedly enjoy and want to do more of, even when I’m well enough to do something “more exciting.” Even if that means giving up some of the nights out I was trying to snatch up. When you’re sick and living with limited energy, life is not a dash to experience everything you possibly can – it’s about prioritizing experiences that are important to you and taking the time to savor them.

So the goal? The resolution? Do more things that make me happy, whether that’s a wild adventure or just a board game night. Don’t be too focused on saying “yes” to every single invitation, but also know when to push myself to try something fun. Make time for both sides of me – the introvert who wants to stay in and bake, and the extrovert who wants to put on some tall boots and dance to Kesha. Channel my inner-Yoda and find balance in the Force that is my life. Because flare-ups of my illness will come and go, but if I can foster a steadfast sense of self that lives outside of those circumstances, I can tackle it all in stride.

This post originally appeared on Sicker Than Your Average.

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

Photo via kasto80 on Getty Images

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Crohn's Disease

three friends at a christmas party

5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays With Chronic Illness

‘Tis the season of ugly sweater parties, dwindling bank accounts and Mariah Carey Christmas songs. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, am I right? For the most part, I agree with this sentiment. There’s something so magical about the holiday season and everything that comes along with it. I’m a real sucker for [...]
nicola fletcher in hospital bed and picture of her scars

Woman Transforms Scars From Crohn's Disease With Beautiful Rose Tattoo

Nicola Fletcher, a 36-year-old mother of six from Blackpool, England, had struggled for years with Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, and the significant scarring it left on her backside. So she found a beautiful way to reclaim her body and transform her scars into a work of art: with [...]

Who Is the Gatekeeper of the Information Shared About My Child's Health Condition?

I have always found it challenging to know exactly what information about my son’s chronic health issues is appropriate to share with others. Although his story, his battle with Crohn’s disease, obviously impacted my story, it has always predominantly been his story. He was the one facing the health challenges. In the battle of chronic health, he was the [...]

It's Complicated: My Relationship Status With Remission

Relationships are messy. Couples fight, break up and make up. One minute you’re in the honeymoon stage and the next you’re hit with the dreaded “we need to talk.” Things are never black and white and confusion comes with the territory. My relationship with remission is no different. I’ve had my eyes set on remission [...]