A Lesson In Stability and Chronic Illness

I had the most transformative and bizarre and horrible month of March.

When Shakespeare's soothsayer warns Julius Caesar, "Beware the Ides of March," the phrase was born and tumbled through time, becoming a very real — and very ominous — utterance, simply because of the narrative (hint: Julius Caesar was murdered on March 15).

But the ides are also a lunar phase, marking the first new moon in a month. And so, the Ides are also a time of rebirth and fresh starts.

To me, the Ides were both. They were dark and troubled, and they were a chance to start anew. I'd gone through some scary family stuff — immediate members of my family were sick, one requiring a last-minute, super scary emergency surgery. They were okay, thank god.

Flare ups and anxiety

My anxiety was through the roof, my heart pounding through the days, worrying, waiting for bad news, my flare-up soaring. Then, we moved houses. The move happened during a thunderstorm, and I wasn't ready for it emotionally; I was so hungry for stability and routine and the move brought with it a newness that felt raw and unwelcome and difficult. I have an issue with change, so it was like being pushed into a situation that felt totally foreign. A painful birthing. My flare-up got so bad that walking for more than five minutes became a non-option. I'd stop, break, walk, worry that I couldn't keep going, then start again.

The stress itself was wearing on me, and AS was lapping it up hungrily.

Then I got COVID-19. The sickness itself has lasted about nine days and is sticking around. The gratitude for life overwhelmed me and the anxiety about my new home paled in comparison; still, I found it difficult to heal in a setting that didn't and doesn't feel like home. I felt unmoored, lost, like I was spiraling, unprepared for this journey of body and mind.

My AS seemed to go "on pause" once COVID took over my immune system. The painlessness was a strange reminder of what it feels like to be in a body that doesn't hurt all the time — and yet, I had COVID to deal with.

Routine grounded me

I found myself sticking to precious routine through all of this change, even when I was sick. The little things that grounded me were coffee in the morning (even without taste or smell), journaling in the morning, taking my vitamins and supplements, stretching in the morning before my window, lighting candles at nightfall and drinking tea before bed, and reading my favorite book when moments of anxiety hit. I started deep breathing when I felt out of control and built this into my day, too — clogged nose and all.

Hint: Even building in downtown and rest can be part of a routine — and anyone with an energy-zapping chronic illness knows how important this is.

I say all of this because stress (due to chaos and change and a lack of stability) can trigger a flare-up, and because people who are chronically ill are already dealing with the roller coaster ride of being sick. A little stability goes a long way. Creating an intentional routine also allows us to focus on what we can control, and it makes life a little bit more beautiful when everything around us — and within us — feels like it's falling apart.

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