A Delicate Balance
When you have a chronic illness and/or chronic pain, there is a delicate balance between not allowing yourself to live and then pushing it too far. For the first 5 years of being chronically ill, I was so scared that anything I did that was “extra” or “fun” would cause me to be in more pain, or become injured. I was walking around in my body, but it felt foreign, it’s reactions weren’t predictable. A hike would put me in increased pain for days. A yoga practice would mean I could barely walk the next day. Nothing made sense. As a result, I sat on the sidelines of my own life at times. Gradually, through trial and error I’m learning what efforts are worth the energy, exertion, or possible risks. Often times my energy has to be conserved for the essential, which in this seasons of my life often means caring for my young family, which is a physically demanding job, and my professional responsibilities.
Often, there isn’t a lot of energy left for much more. The hard part of chronic illness, is often you just don’t feel well. Your status quo is less than optimal. So gearing up to do more, to do extra, beyond the essential is a huge ask, it takes emotional, mental, and physical effort. Yesterday, was one of those days. I was exhausted, and my hands ached, and nothing but the bare minimum felt doable. And yet, I knew it was one of the days I needed to push it a little bit to remember I was alive. So my husband helped buckle my skis boots and zip up my coat (my hands aren’t working as well as I would like lately) and I did a few ski runs.
It was a blue-bird day. The Spanish Peaks of South Central Montana were stunning - tall and rugged and yet blanketed in the softest snow. As I skied I was struck by the silver-linings of our lives. My hands might ache but in this moment, I am well enough to be outside and quietly skiing down a mountain. Chronic illness could tell me a story that I’m broken, and yet it also provides moments of profound gratitude for what remains possible or functional.
Life is imperfect and hard and simultaneously filled with so many things to be grateful for.
So, is today a day where resting is what your mind-body-spirit needs? Or does it need to be reminded that you’re alive, and among all the hard things there are small silver linings waiting for you to see them? What story of loss needs to be honored and yet also examined to see if there is more than meets the eye?
Sara Hughes-Zabawa, LCSW works from a holistic approach, focusing on issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, chronic pain, disordered eating, faith transitions, stress management and serving the LGBTQ+ community. She offers coaching/consultation and therapy services to individuals, couples and families.