Goodness knows, battling chronic illness requires resilience. And resilience is…
The Rough and Tough Days
Two days ago I had a rough day for a variety of reasons, but alas the day presented me with many more difficult moments than easy, soft, yearned-for blissful moments.
I know you feel me. I know I’m preachin’ to the choir here because I know you know too well the rigmarole of chronic illness.
So it goes with chronic illness. Sure, we find ways to have more good days amidst the inevitable and hopefully infrequent not-so-good days because, well, we bloody well must. Some days we face an all-out brawl – we clash and we combat. Other days we confront a fracas or fray – we hassle and, if we’re lucky, we maybe just have to hustle a little.
Whatever the extremity of the difficulty you face, be prepared, my friends. This from the woman who used to be so terribly ill-prepared for these occurrences that the fall-out was downright traumatic, leaving me blackeyed, broken, and breathless.
Caveat: I’ve not found the panacea for managing these challenging moments, but I do have an arsenal of coping tools that I’ve come to use and trust implicitly. I’ve witnessed how much better I do when I implement these tools. These tools pull me back from the pangs of panic. They give me cause to pause. They foster me with the courage to say, “This [insert challenge] isn’t going to best me.”
My vision for this post is that it will be the first in a series of posts in which I discuss my trusty cache of coping mechanisms. So here goes a wee discussion of the first.
Embrace Your Peeps
Reach out for social (and physical) connection. Ya know, find your tribe. And then hold ‘em tight and love ‘em hard.
A couple of days ago when I could feel myself slipping into the vortex of dark and dank thoughts, I repeatedly listened to and pondered the words of one of my favourite songs, “Don’t Give Up,” by Peter Gabriel. If you get the chance, do play this song. It’s just lovely and Kate Bush’s delicate voice soothes in that first chorus where she repeats the phrase, “Don’t give up.”
You’re no different – you have friends, and you’re not beaten, and you will make this good. So don’t give up, and embrace your family and friends as valuable sources of support.
When I was in the thick of the difficulty of that day, I capitalized upon the strength and love of my near and dear. My mom held and gently rubbed my hand while I cried. My dad gave me one of his signature reassuring hugs. My husband stroked my hair, smiled encouragingly, and kept repeating Bob Marley style that every little thing was gonna be alright. Even my beloved shih tzu Henry came to the therapeutic rescue by cozying up to me on the couch for a few minutes.
Excuse the Vulnerability
Perhaps the vulnerability plagues you. Maybe you think, “I shouldn’t bother my family and friends. I should be stronger.” But you should absolutely bother them and you are resilient and brave for stating your needs!
I’ve struggled the most with vulnerability to the point that it prevented me from seeking help. I’ve felt so badly for even the thought that I required help that I avoided the very thing that could empower and calm me – connection.
Again, embrace your peeps.
For serious reals. We require connection like we do other basic bits of sustenance. On a fundamental level, we humans need each other to survive. Think of the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin. When we embrace and engage in physical touch, this hormone serves to increase circulation, lower blood pressure, and boost the immune system. Yeah! Hugs feel amazeballs for a reason!
I understand that not everyone has a supply of huggers close at hand. Not to worry – take a deep, juicy breath and hug yourself.
For the Love of Hugs
Wrap your arms around you. Do it. Right now. Squeeze and rub those worthy shoulders of yours. Feels lovely, doesn’t it?
Do you have a pet? Good! Studies have shown that these wonderful creatures who love us so unconditionally are just as capable of helping us access a good dose of oxytocin. Don’t have a pet? Maybe now’s the time to start looking for your own little cuddle bug.
In Sum – Tap into Social (and Physical) Support
So that’s my coping mechanism numero uno:
- Make connections and develop bonds.
- Release the vulnerability.
- Be emboldened by your peeps.
- Hug your family. Hug your friends. Hug your pets. Hug yourself!
And never give up because what you fight is not a losing battle.