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5 Reasons to Celebrate Illness Anniversaries and Milestones

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I have always loved celebrating birthdays, holidays, Christmas, you name it – I just enjoyed the celebration of another year. In the past, I was never one to dwell on another year “passing,” but was simply too preoccupied with what could become of the year ahead. When I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, (or for so many, another invisible, debilitating disease), time slowed down, and at times barely seems to be moving at all.

Some months I can barely think about anything else but the treatment ahead of me, but other months I dream of the celebrations had. But then I realized, why, because our way of celebration may need to be altered, should we ever limit ourselves from celebrating in the first place? I recently surpassed the “anniversary” of my Lyme disease diagnosis, and although I still do not have the right word instead of “anniversary,” the following five things were part of the day and week following the reminder of my diagnosis.

1. Allows Progress to Be Seen

Currently I am doing well enough to be out of bed, but still housebound most of the days, and in need of a constant nap each day. Last year I wouldn’t have even been able to get out of bed for hardly anything. No matter how small, what progress can you see in your health in a month, in a year?

2. Brings Caretakers Together to Encourage

For many, caretakers are hired outside help to clean the house, manage the calendar and divide medication, and for many others, our caretakers fall to our family. Regardless of who takes care of you day in and day out, thank each one of them with great sincerity, on a day you choose as your “anniversary.” They see you differently than you see yourself, so listen to their words of encouragement or practical advice, as you strive for the year ahead.

3. Sets the Mind Up for Accomplishment

What would I like to see myself be able to do in the following year? Being realistic with treatment schedules, symptoms, etc., how will I be able to push myself to reach for a new milestone? Remember, family and friends are hopefully available to celebrate even the minor successes, and catch you during the major losses. This isn’t a competition next to anyone else, but speaking out where your dreams lie to someone else can be extremely impactful in helping you achieve the milestone you set.

4. Allows for a Day of Self-Care

My two favorite pick-me-ups are flowers and decaf almond milk lattes, but they are definitely special treats. Even those two little things brightened my day, knowing they were part of letting go, celebrating a moment of making it another year in my treatment, to savor in a day only I could truly understand. I know many of us are on disability, and self-care never has to equal money. It may mean taking a small walk, listening to a podcast that lifts you up or even asking for a friend or family member to stop by for a visit.

5. Understand Reality

Although the above four mentioned should be practiced often, anniversary or not, as chronically ill patients, we have to remember our reality. I know I can oftentimes think I am 12 steps further in my treatment than I really am, and end up regretting my overexertion. Remembering where you are doesn’t make an anniversary, or date to remember, any less impactful.

Choose a day. A week. A holiday. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with a day related to your illness. But with the amount of medication, doctors appointments, symptoms, treatments and surgeries, having a day or two you can call your own, a special day that has significance to you, allows you in just another special and exciting way to hold on. Hold on to the good, even when the terrain may look rocky ahead.

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Getty Images by HAKINMHAN

Originally published: February 13, 2018
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