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Dealing With the Daily Drudgery of Life With a Chronic Illness

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Life isn’t always fun. It will always have highs and lows. Times when we are ecstatic. Times when we are happy.  Times when we are content. Times when we are melancholy. Times when we are bored. Times when we just have to deal with drudgery.

I’m sitting in the “dealing with drudgery” category at the moment. Often when I’m in this place it’s because I’m at a crossroads. I’m not quite feeling fulfilled; I need a fresh purpose. Sometimes it’s just because life has lulls and we become acutely aware of the mundane.

The Daily Drudge

As someone with a debilitating chronic illness, my daily routine is so mundane, and getting even more so, as my disease and disability progresses. This time last year I could get out regularly with my husband, even for an hour, once or twice a week. I’m blessed if I can manage to get out once a fortnight now, and often it is nothing more than sitting as a passenger for a car ride around our local countryside.  I’m incredibly grateful I can do this as the scenery is uplifting and brings such joy.

The mundane part of my life is the strict routine I have to follow every day:

  • Up early for medication with breakfast.
  • Basic household chores after breakfast.
  • Back to bed mid-morning to try and control the intense breakthrough pain.
  • Get dressed late morning.
  • Have lunch while watching a TV show with my husband.
  • Do some admin/housekeeping tasks after lunch.
  • Lie down for 90 mins in late afternoon.
  • Get up for dinner.
  • Clean up after dinner.
  • Shower and go to bed.

There are other daily things I regularly do, including managing my online support forum, writing articles, blogging and podcasting, playing brain games, chatting online with family or friends and watching a couple of favorite TV shows.

Missing Multitasking

I’m a multitasker by nature. I’ve always had multiple projects on the go at home and at work. When I was at school, my teachers gave me extra assignments as I would finish my work too quickly. I enjoyed the extra work. My brain is still healthy, but as my body continues to crumble, the pain is making it hard for me to have the energy I need to keep up with my brain. This conundrum has heightened my feeling of being stuck in the drudgery of my situation.

It’s a little like being stuck in a job you really don’t like, but you don’t have an easy or immediate opportunity to be able to make a change.

This example sums up my feeling of drudgery well, except my “work drudgery” is my diseased body!

Is There a Solution?

Sometimes there is a solution, especially if a change in purpose or a new opportunity, can be added to your life.

In terms of progressive chronic illness, solutions are not necessarily going to jump out easily, if at all. I’m sure I’m not alone in needing to find a way to deal with drudgery due to severe disability and pain.

How on earth can I dig my way out of my current ditch? How on earth can others, in situations similar to mine, deal with the daily drudgery?

One of my main hurdles with my disabled life is wanting to run when I can’t even walk.

I’ve spent my life serving others. Growing up in a home where my dad was a church pastor and my mum was a social worker, I was surrounded by wonderful examples of always putting others first. I embraced this way of life fully and have always put others’ needs before my own.

I married an Anglican minister and we enjoyed a wonderful working partnership for years of caring for others together, until my health ripped this amazing calling away from both of us.

Serving others is my happy place.

As my disease has progressed over the past four years, my body has demanded I focus on my needs. My worst nightmare! I don’t want to focus on me when my heart is craving to serve, lead and spend whatever years are left of my life, in a fulfilling way. Those who know me well will say I do serve others through my blog and support forum etc.

Yes, to a degree I do, but what scares me is I am finding these activities more and more exhausting as my body threatens to suffocate me.

So I guess I have a choice. I can find a way to deal with the drudgery and fight back, or I can pull the doona over my head and give in.

I’m going to try and fight back, even though I don’t yet have the best strategic plan. In an effort to help others, who may be feeling like me,  I’m at least going to try and come up with some ideas.

So Let’s Get Digging Out of This Ditch!

Here we go… my tips for dealing with drudgery:

  • Acknowledge how you are feeling. Say it out loud, tell a loved one or friend you are in a drudgery ditch.
  • Review your daily routine. See if you can change it up a bit. For example, if you need to rest your body but not your brain every afternoon, could you set a challenge to read a book genre you perhaps wouldn’t normally read. Something to make you really think. Or perhaps contact someone every day who you haven’t heard from for a while to see if they are OK. It can be a text or DM, but you might just be the person who helps them break out of their own drudgery.
  • Perhaps you do need time out. It might be time to have a holiday. I’m pretty sure part of my drudgery feeling is because I’m a little burnt out from working so hard on all things within my “My Medical Musings” brand, including writing a full book! It’s just possible I might need to give myself permission to completely stop for a while and “just be.” I’m seriously thinking about doing this for four weeks.
  • Find a new purpose to fit your new limitations. This one might take a while to discover. The best place to start is to make deliberate time to think about what you are capable of doing.
  • Engage constructive thoughts and self-talk. Avoid thoughts like, “if my body was OK, I could…” This line of thinking will only cause you to sink further into the drudgery ditch. I’m guilty of doing this lately and it’s really not helpful. I’m changing my thinking to, “My pain is intense, so I’m limited in my ability to physically move. I need an activity that will engage my brain and can be done while sitting or lying down. Something to distract me from the pain and it needs to be something different to my current activities.”

This list is definitely not all-inclusive, and my attempt to get out of this ditch is a work in progress.

Just Passing Through

Writing this article has been a good start for me to begin dealing with the drudgery. My hope is it might help others feeling similarly, whether because of chronic illness or COVID restrictions, to not accept drudgery as a permanent state.

I intend to think about this drudgery as a phase. It’s a time I’m passing through. If I focus on realistic possibilities and dare to dream a little, I may even find a new purpose.

“Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen.” –Hebrews 11:1

Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope!

Getty image by Michael Blann.

Originally published: August 30, 2021
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