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10 New Year (Re)Solutions Everyone with A Chronic Illness Should Make

15 Days After the New Year I Wound Up in Emergency Surgery Which Wasn't A Part of the Plan

At the beginning of last year I posted a video about my goals for the new year and 15 days later I wound up in emergency surgery and spent the next 3 months in the hospital, had some complications, went septic, and spent 9 months on TPN. It probably goes without saying that my emergency surgery and all that followed was not a part of my plan for the upcoming year.

I ended up taking that video down because I felt stupid that only 2 weeks after I posted it my life was turned up-side-down by my health

again

Eventually though I had to accept my reality as it was and keep moving forward because what else could I do?

 At times living with chronic illness has made it difficult for me to look forward to things. It also has been challenging to make plans or even feel optimistic about stuff. This has been most true for me when my health is at its worst. How do you look forward to something when you have no idea what tomorrow will bring? When you are so sick that your health keeps interfering with your plans you start to feel like nothing is ever going to go your way so why even bother feeling hopeful at all? 

This way of thinking is EXACTLY why I encourage you to make resolutions/set goals. It is because I don’t want you to give up, lose hope, or stop trying just because you have a chronic illness. It’s not good for you I tells ya and if a white lady wrote it on the internet then you know it’s true. I sure do hope by now you know when I’m being sarcastic. 

Truthfully, I don’t really like the idea of making resolutions for the new year because with all that pressure it almost seems like you are setting yourself up for disappointment; especially when life with a chronic illness can be so unpredictable.

Me walking down the hallway in the hospital pushing my IV pole

Resolutions are Bad * Solutions are Rad

Resolutions practically set you up for failure. You start or stop doing whatever it is on January 1st and once you mess up then you have failed. What healthy person even keeps their resolutions? Personally I like the idea of setting goals or looking for solutions which is why I titled this post 10 reSOLUTIONS, with the focus on solutions. 

I think that setting goals is a good idea for (everyone) people living with chronic illness because it’s important to have things to look forward to and even if things don’t go the way you hoped they would there is wisdom to be gained when you learn how to be flexible and resilient. 

10 (re)Solutions Everyone With A Chronic Illness Should Consider Making for the New Year

1. Get More Sleep

I probably don’t have to tell you that sleep is important to your health and well-being. Getting enough rest can be tricky if pain, anxiety, or even trips to the bathroom keep you awake at night or interrupt your sleep. Sometimes the fix is treating the pain, the anxiety, or the illness so that you sleep better. Other times it can be something more simple like creating a sleep routine. I can’t speak for all chronic illnesses but I do know there have been studies that have shown poor sleep to have a negative effect on inflammatory bowel disease. Sleep = your health depends on it! 

A bottle of sleep potion

2. Use SPF

Kelly and Zach from Saved by the Bell sitting on the beach in their very 80s swimwear

If you don’t already use SPF every day make it a goal to use it in the next year. Patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have a higher risk of developing skin cancer compared to the general public and that risk increases with certain medications. For all chronic illness patients – some of the medications you may be taking might also increase your risk of sun burns and/or skin damage so it’s important to protect your skin. If that isn’t enough to convince you, wearing sunscreen can also prevent premature aging, wrinkles, brown spots, and other skin discolorations. If you are worried about getting enough vitamin D ask your doctor if you should be taking a supplement. 

3. Try Complementary  Medicine

Complementary medicine is something you use in addition to standard medical treatment and NOT in place of it. Some examples of CM are acupuncture, art and music, journaling, meditation, hypnosis, prayer, yoga, massage, mindfulness training, and CBD oil. Most complimentary medicine is safe and works along with the treatments you are already on to improve your overall quality of life. 

Beware of alternative medicine which can be dangerous (not evidence-based, not well tested or even tested at all, toxic, etc). If not dangerous it could also be just plain useless and expensive so you should always talk to your doctor before trying anything new.

 Complementary medicine can help control symptoms, ease pain, reduce stress, treat depression, and improve your health-related quality of life. It is important to use complementary medicine with the treatments your doctor has prescribed for you and not solely rely on it as a treatment for your illness. Yoga might heal your mind but it sure won’t heal a fistula!

An image of holy water, crystals, a diary, and a woman in 80s exercise attire

4. Learn to Accept Your Chronic Illness

Accept your situation exactly as it is. This means that you will also have to accept your current limitations. Chronic illness is with you for life and if you haven’t yet accepted this then now is the time to work towards that. Acceptance does not mean that you have to like being sick or that in some way you are giving up. Acceptance means seeing things exactly as they are so that you can live your best life possible. If you can’t even accept that you have this illness you are going to be fighting with yourself and creating a lot of inner turmoil for a long time. 

“When we accept what is, we are free. Free to act in accordance with reality. Free to be at peace with the circumstances of our lives, no matter how undesirable or difficult they are. And free to continue to do everything in our power to improve the conditions of our lives…”  – Chris Kresser on Living With A Chronic Illness: The Power of Acceptance

5. Get Your Finances  in Order

Being sick is expensive in America. I could rant about this for a long time but now is not that time.

Thinking about money sends me into a straight panic most of the time because my medical debt is through the roof. I did not have health insurance throughout 2 emergency surgeries and 6 months in the hospital. I also lost my insurance a few times after that and acquired more debt along the way.

Even if your situation is not as extreme as mine it’s a good goal for any person to focus on finances and set some goals to improve their current situation. Unless you’re part of the 1% and in that case fuck you. 

Also can I borrow some money?

6. Learn About Your Illness

Describing your illness in spoons will only get you so far and may leave some of your friends and family members scratching their heads. Set a goal to learn more about your health conditions this year. This will not only help you understand your illness more but it can help you advocate for yourself better, make more informed decisions about your treatment, and be able to describe your illness to others better which can help get rid of those myths and misconceptions about your illness that we all love to hate.

Next time someone tells you to change your diet or try some miracle cure they heard about you’ll be able to confidently tell them why that won’t work. 

An alien reading a book titled "IBD 101"

7. Overcome the Stigma/Embarrassment/ Shame

Does your illness come with a stigma attached to it? One of mine does. I used to find having Crohn’s disease so embarrassing that I purposely isolated myself in a major way. I cut off ties with friends, made excuses, told lies, caused fights on purpose in my relationship, stopped going anywhere and couldn’t talk about it. 

My life greatly improved when I became open about my illness and discovered that the world didn’t come crashing down around me once I started telling people what was really going on in my life because of Crohn’s disease. Seeing the positive response I got from what I was saying showed me that I had nothing to be ashamed of and that I was actually a bad a$s mutha f…well you know. 

Of course this is easier said than done and if you told me this even less than five or six years ago I would have laughed in your face. It is a process. Try working towards making this better for yourself in the next year if your illness has you feeling so embarrassed and ashamed that you are greatly altering your life because of it. 

8. Stop Hating Your Body

Headstone that says "RIP my Insecurities"

Almost everyone has something they dislike about their body but when you become fixated on hating yourself it becomes a problem. For those of us living with chronic illnesses it can be extra complicated because a lot about your body is often out of your control. It has become almost second nature for me to hate not only the way my illnesses have changed my physical appearance but also the limitations my body has. At times I have become fixated on these things and viewed myself as “damaged goods.”

If this sounds familiar and you spend too much time hating your body look for a solution this year. 

9. Don't Forget Your Friends

It’s a challenge to stay in contact with the people important to you when your health is poor. Their lives keep going and once you start cancelling plans or spend a long time in the hospital it seems people stop inviting you to things all together. It sucks and it’s easy to feel abandoned.

Realistically, unless our friends also have a chronic illness they probably don’t understand life with one. We have to meet people half way. They may stop calling or inviting you out because they think asking you might make you feel worse. Whatever the reason

gif of Zach, Slater, and Screech from Saved By the Bell dancing in the living room

it’s important that you also work at your relationships. Don’t place the responsibility of your friendships all in the hands of your friends.

It isn’t easy to keep up relationships when you are sick and I am soooooo guilty of it myself. I get depressed often, I want to be alone, I am too sick or too fatigued and then I wonder where all my friends went. It’s absolutely a goal of mine to work harder at keeping in touch with people who mean a lot to me. It can be as simple as sending a text or Facebook message just to say hello. 

*Of course there are those “friends” who really are jerks and ditch you when you need people the most. Sometimes chronic illness really does teach you who your real friends are. 

Those are not real friends. Set their hair on fire. 

10. Let It Go

Gif of Danny Tanner saying "you have to move on in life."

I had a vision for the way my life should be right now. It went a little something like – I should be married, have a career, be financially stable, and have had at least one kid by now. Know which one of those goals I have accomplished? None of them. One of these (having kids) has really bothered me this past year and it took me by surprise as to how important this actually is to me. My life didn’t turn out the way I saw it turning out and it makes me feel all sorts of ways: sad, angry, resentful, jealous, anxious, and so forth. The funny thing is that I am still pretty

 young and I can still accomplish most of these things but I keep feeling like time is running out. I have accepted my chronic illnesses, I still have ambitions and goals, but I need to work on letting go of some of my anger and resentment about what my health has taken away from me and keep moving forward. 

I Believe in You

So that’s it! Those are my 10 basic resolutions everyone with a chronic illness should consider making but it doesn’t have to end there. Set goals that are more specific to you and your current situation and remind yourself that if all doesn’t go according to plan that it’s OK to adjust your goals or the timeline in which to achieve them.  

I believe in you. I know I might not know you, we may have never met, but I believe you are capable of accomplishing most things you wish to. The reality of life with chronic illness is that the timing and path of things may have to change but you are not doomed to a life of unhappiness. This is your starting point; your situation as it is right now. Go from here! 

And with that my friends I say goodbye for now and I will greet you again (I hope) soon. Here’s one of my goals for the new year – I want to be less wordy and stop writing such LOOONNNNNG posts. You know how I am… words just keep falling out of my mouth!  

Sara

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