In Defense of Fun: Chronic Illness Management
I've been in a dark hole lately. The pain has gotten pretty intense and incredibly constant. Just when I think I'm doing ok, I go take a walk and my body feels like I've been throwing myself against a wall. I'll be honest — it's getting tiresome, lonely, and frustrating emotionally. Every night I go to bed feeling like half of my body is broken, and when I wake up I feel double my age.
And so, for the first time lately, I've found myself asking, "How is this my life?"
Falling into a dark hole
This is not a great feeling — this worrying, this roller coaster of "why me?", this surprise at my own circumstances. But I let myself feel it. I let the sadness wash over me. I try to accept that this is how genetics played out and that it's my life task to manage it. There is no fair or not fair. It just is. (EXCEPT IT'S NOT FAIR!)
And so I believe that fun is so critically important that I embrace fun and pleasure and levity and lightness — and I would truly suggest the same for others since I've witnessed its benefits. It's so easy to fall into a dark hole and to let the black hole inhabit you — especially in times we live in now, where the political turmoil puts extra stress on our lives and bodies.
Put some standup on the television, start another comedy show, or return to the one you know always makes you laugh. Download a comedy podcast. Spend a half-hour per day watching or listening to something that cracks you up — and return to it daily as part of your wellness ritual. Why? "Currently, research is indicating that the physical act of laughing, even without humor, is linked to chemical changes in the body that potentially reduce stress and increase pain tolerance," according to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
It doesn't matter if you're dancing in your bed, wheelchair, in your back garden, or on a soft yoga mat, it's worth it. If you can, do it. I'm not asking you to throw yourself into a flare-up, but why not turn the chores into a chance to blast some of your favorite songs and let it be a fun experience, dotted with dance and singing at the top of your lungs? There are even seated dance tutorials (I love this one and this one!), which is SO awesome. One study found that dance improves anxiety, depression, cognitive skills, and quality of life. And it can even improve chronic conditions.
Throw yourself a you-party
Dress up, put on some makeup (if you wear makeup), make your favorite food, call your friends, maybe indulge in a glass of wine, put the mood lighting on, and have a fun time. Listen to your favorite music, read a book, take selfies, make art, write a poem, take a fancy bath, garden, try a new hairstyle, whatever it is that makes you happy. Give yourself a few hours to log off the Internet, do the things that make you joyful, and permit yourself uninhibited you-time.
Can you tell when a flare is coming?