Trying to do it “all” with chronic illnesses

It feels like everything is hard with a chronic illness. Pain, fatigue, and other symptoms affect us in ways most people don’t think about.

Walking is harder. Sitting is harder. Reading is harder. Cooking is harder. Planning is a hell of a lot harder.

Last year I wrote down goals for earning money in 2016. I didn’t succeed, but they put me on a better path than I would have otherwise been on. So I did it again for 2017. And then I did something else: I wrote down my personal goals. I’ve never done that before and it was fascinating.

I wrote down everything big. And I realized how much harder it will all be than I would have thought just a few years ago.

I wrote down the book I want to write, blogging here, improving my health including doing regular physical therapy and other exercise, getting a dog (yay!), joining a dating site (well, maybe), making new single friends (most of my friends are coupled off at this point) through attending meetup groups, and some other things I’ll be telling you about soon.

It was a really great exercise and I recommend everyone do it. It puts everything into perspective. Doing this forced me to seriously consider everything I want to do, then narrow that down to what I want most. Then I broke that down into what I need to do to make it happen. For example, in order to make new friends, I need to join some meetup groups and actually attend, instead of my usual thing of joining but then staying home. (If you don’t know about and you want to get out of the house more, check it out! I can’t do the physical activity groups like hiking or playing frisbee anymore, so I’m joining knitting and board game groups.) And I wrote down how many times a day I’ll do physical therapy, how many times a week I’ll check in on dating sites, and so on.

And then I looked at my list, added up the time required for each thing, and thought, “No wonder I’m so overwhelmed and never feel like I have enough time to get things done!” It was great! I mean, it sucked, because I have to give up something that’s important to me. But at least now I understand that it wasn’t that I was unorganized, just that I was trying to do more than my health allows. I have fewer hours, and I need to accept that. Sure, I’ve got a lot less on my list than I would if I was healthy, but it’s still too much. I can’t go right from a date to taking a walk – I need to rest in between. I can’t make new friends unless I have the energy to go out with them, and that takes energy from other activities. I still want to hang out with my current friends, knit, read, and do other things. Plus, showering, getting dressed, laundry, washing dishes, and even eating take up a lot of energy. But I don’t have to tell you that.

And of course, I can’t assume that any of my plans will stick. I could plan to do 3 hours of stuff every Monday, and some Mondays I’ll be able to do more but others I’ll have to less or maybe nothing at all. It’s completely unpredictable.

So that’s how I find myself looking at my list of personal goals for 2017, feeling keenly aware of the ways that everything is just a bit harder with chronic illnesses.

I don’t have the answers yet, but at least I can see the problem clearly. Something’s gotta give. Ok. I accept that. Now I just need to find the answers.

What about you? Do you set personal goals? How do you find ways to fit everything in or pare down?

6 Responses to Trying to do it “all” with chronic illnesses

  1. katherinebay says:

    I think that’s a great idea to start of the new year!! I totally agree that some days are better than others despite how much we plan. I can’t wait to try this myself!

  2. Ms. Mango says:

    This is exactly what I do every year. No crazy resolutions, just soft reflection and a little future planning of what I see myself doing over the next year. I do find it’s very difficult coming to grips that year after year I have less energy and time to do everything I want to so it feels like every year I “get” less and less time. Right now simply coping with the fact that my feeble body and mind can’t keep up with my mental image of all I’m supposed to accomplish around the holidays is pretty difficult. I think for next year, I need to aim to learn to delegate more and stop trying to do everything myself. It’ll definitely be a new experience, but hopefully a worthwhile one….and who knows, maybe a puppy for the Mango household as well 🙂

    • chronicrants says:

      I hear you, Ms. Mango. Increasing limitations make it so hard to plan and to feel good about it. Delegating is a great idea, and I hope you can find a way to make it work well for you. Instead of planning for the year, I might make it shorter, since life is so unpredictable. 6 months? 3 months?

      And oh my goodness, a PUPPY!?!? I hope you’ll let us know if that happens. How fun that would be!

  3. Karen J says:

    Good reminder, CR!
    I’ve never ‘actually’ done any of that planning and reflecting that everyone talks about – seems the ‘thinking about it’ satisfies my brain, I think I’ve done it, and then I move on to other things, yaknow? Or maybe you don’t – I think it’s an ADD-ish thing…

    • chronicrants says:

      I think a lot of us do that, Karen, but to the opposite effect. We want to do something big and exciting and hard, so we think about it a lot, then we feel like we’ve done it so we don’t bother to put in the work. It’s not good. I like your way better – thinking about it so I feel good about the things I can’t/won’t do. I’ll have to try that 🙂

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