Saturday, January 21, 2012

Soldiering On

This morning I am reflecting on a young woman who clearly has a chronic illness but her diagnosis remains elusive. As with most chronic illnesses, her health is unpredictable from day to day and even hour to hour. She keeps soldiering on. I did that too until I finally got hauled off in an ambulance.

When we refuse to take the time we need to heal, that is a symptom of denial. When we believe that we are indispensable, that is a symptom of denial. When we say, "I'll be fine tomorrow" without any concrete evidence, that is a symptom of denial.

Part of this irrational thinking is that we have to push ourselves so that we won't let down our loved ones or friends or employers. The truth of the matter is that when we soldier on, we aren't giving our best. When we make promises that our health probably won't let us keep, we are letting them down even more. We create unreasonable expectations and then beat ourselves up for not meeting them.

A good way to find your compass in this situation is to pretend that you are healthy and that someone you love has what you have. What would you expect of them? What would you do to help them? What advice would you have for them? Now, do that for yourself.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Yesterday was the monthly meeting of my lupus support group. A thirty-something young man came for the first time. Before we even started he wanted to know what we "do" in the group. Most first timers have the same concern. In addition, the first time they come to the group is a big step because it means really admitting they have the disease. When we have people who are new to the group, we typically introduce ourselves and give a very brief description of how lupus manifests itself in our bodies. The veterans are pretty dispassionate when they talk about their lupus. We have learned to incorporate lupus, but not make it the center of our lives. When a new person comes to the group, everyone in the group focuses on the needs and questions of that person. I love to see them in action!

This young man was very angry about having lupus. Anyone with a chronic illness knows about this anger phase. We also know that talking about difficult emotions diffuses them. The group ran long-over two hours. At the end, the young man was laughing, chatting, and still asking questions. Support groups are great places to hear how others have learned to live well despite the fact that their diseases and conditions have no cure.

Most disease foundations have support groups. If you are suffering in isolation, why not consider visiting a group?