a person reaching to pick up the last spoon in a row

Getting Complacent With Self Care

Having a chronic illness like AS can be utterly exhausting. Not only are we already exhausted from the fatigue that it forces on us, but we also need to put a huge effort into looking after ourselves to prevent our symptoms getting worse.

Self-care is tiring sometimes but so important; stretching, staying active, eating healthily and looking after the mental side of things are so beneficial but can often drain the limited spoons that we have. However, if we do neglect our self care, there can be painful consequences, something that I learned the hard way.

I was doing well...

During the peak of the pandemic, like many others living with a compromised immune system, I had to hide inside for my own safety. It was a year and a half until I found myself in the outside world again.

It was an enormous mental challenge but during this time I was able to fully focus on my own health. I was stretching every morning and evening, avoiding alcohol, preparing myself the healthiest meals possible and I was very on the ball with taking all my medication.

I was determined to keep myself as healthy as possible and I had so much free time that I was able to put all my energy into doing just that.

Starting to slack

But after I received my second vaccination and was able to get myself back into the world, I dropped the ball on my self-care regimen big time. I hadn’t had any face-to-face human interaction for a year and a half. My first human contact was with the nurse who gave me my first vaccine.

So when I finally had the chance to catch up with my friends, I felt like I needed to make up for lost time and said yes to almost every invite that came my way. Sitting indoors for so long had gotten me pretty stir crazy so when I did go out, I did not pace myself at all. The excitement of having a life again led to me losing track of days and I found myself accidentally forgetting to take my medication on occasion. My biologics hangovers were replaced with the original recipe hangovers, and I was slacking with my stretches and healthy eating.

I can’t say that I forgot that I was chronically ill as the fatigue and pains never left me, but I was certainly acting like I had.

Wake up call

Then one day when I was responsible enough to take my medication on the correct day, I got a well-deserved reality check. I leant into the fridge to reach for one of my injections and felt a sharp agonizing pain in my neck and down my spine as I tried to grab one. I quickly realised that all this neglect had come back to bite me and a duvet day was needed.

As I lay in bed that day, I could feel the flare up brewing inside me and the pain and stiffness I previously did so well to avoid was spreading across my body. When I dragged myself into the bath, I also realized that a rash across my body had also joined the party. I cancelled all my plans for the week and concentrated on getting myself better. I cleaned up my act completely. I got back on my stretch routine, started eating as healthy as possible and made sure I didn’t let FOMO drag me away from getting some well-earned rest.

It was a painful wake up call for me, but one that was most definitely needed. Luckily, the flare only lasted a week or so (sadly that doesn’t include the rash, but that is a story for another day!) and it certainly has given me the motivation to put more focus on my self-care to ensure this doesn’t repeat itself again.

Final thoughts

Of course, It’s okay to let loose every now and then and enjoy ourselves. But we need to be responsible about it and remember that if we want to enjoy ourselves another time then we need to look after our body in the meantime.

Being chronically ill is a full-time job that nobody applied for, but we can’t afford to completely skive off as there can be painful consequences. So, learn from my mistakes and always keep your health in mind and try to not get complacent with your self-care. Have fun by all means, but try to keep the balance right to avoid painful repercussions like I did!

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