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How Keeping an 'End of the Day Pictures' Journal Helps My Illness

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As someone with a chronic illness, it can prove very difficult to engage in everyday activities such as chores or errands. An even bigger obstacle is attending events for friends and families. I don’t think there is one person who would willingly choose to socially isolate themselves from their loved ones. Unfortunately, when you have a chronic illness, it can sometimes appear that way.

An individual with a chronic illness expends all their energy (or uses all of their spoons) to get through their day. We prefer to know of events in advance so we can plan out our days, weeks, or months. We need to be able to schedule our daily chores and errands in a way that will allow us to function long enough to attend an event, stay there long enough, socialize, and make it back home. Attending an event isn’t a one activity process as all of these micro-steps that require us to be functional throughout the event add up. Furthermore, it is really easy to focus on all the things that went wrong, or remember all the challenges we faced during said process, whether it is because we are hard on ourselves, we are still comparing our current capabilities to how we used to function before, or because we want to be able to work on the obstacles for next time. During this whirlwind, it is easy to forget to celebrate the simple fact that we went out and “peopled”– and sometimes even dressed up for it!

Some years ago, I started taking “End of the Day Pictures.” I take “End of the Day Pictures” because in all of the commotion, I generally forget to take a selfie of how I look when I am all ready and dressed. However, if you do remember and do have the time, then please take an “I Got Ready Even Though I’d Rather Rest Picture!” If you find it helpful, take both and feel free to write about the challenges of the day in a journal, or a notepad on your phone, or even on the image itself!

In all of these years, I have found that taking this “End of the Day Picture” has been extremely beneficial. The fact that you can capture how you look post all of the pain, stress, and socialization means that you have survived yet another event and yet another day that you didn’t think you could. These pictures are extremely helpful on days where I don’t have spoons or energy to complete even the normal chores or errands. There are days where I have to rest all day just to attend an event because there may have been a change in atmospheric pressure which caused a pain flare, or maybe a trigger caused me to use up all my mental and physical energy in order to bear the intense pain and stress levels. On these days, the fact that I can look back at these pictures and recognize that I can get up, get dressed, drive (or get a ride) to the event, socialize, potentially walk in heels or uncomfortable clothing, and make it back home in one piece is a huge accomplishment. Even better is when I come across these “End of the Day Pictures” a few weeks or months later after increased pain levels and a lulled social life…when I may really need a reminder of what I can accomplish.

The beauty of this process is that you can print out these images and their descriptions and keep it in your journal or notebook. If you do journal about your daily struggles, having a reference image or two can be a great way to assess your progress. Just remember to be easy on yourself.

Engaging in events is hard and sometimes our body just needs to do one thing and rest. That is something we cannot control. However, we can control how we react to it and what we take away from it. An “End of the Day Picture” is the real deal and speaks volumes about how well you are actually doing versus how you judged your progress. The fact that you can take that picture and crack a smile means that you did better than you thought and you can do it again!

Originally published: August 11, 2018
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