A few days ago, I felt a meltdown coming. Dizziness and exhaustion always precede the rough days similar to thunder rumbling in the distance before an approaching storm. And so it started; I slept 14 hours and still felt exhausted. My head hurt. My heart pounded. I spent two days feeling like maybe I’m not doing as good of a job managing this whole ‘living with chronic illness’ thing as I had thought.
It’s on these days of feeling ‘extra sick’ that relationships get tricky. I basically have the personality of a potato, and there aren’t many people using potatoes for companionship. For those of us living in the chronic illness world, it’s crucial that we find things to do to distract ourselves, because hopefully tomorrow is going to be better. So, here is my list of things to do for the chronically ill, caregivers, spouses, and whomever else needs low impact entertainment ideas.
1. Fun time with pets.
If you have a pet, you probably enjoy fun with him/her when you feel totally healthy too. But on the days you feel like you’ve been run over by a steam roller, they’re particularly wonderful. Zoey (my sweet, 9 year old shih tzu) will lie in bed with me for hours and snuggle. It’s also a great time to teach your dog really useless tricks- how to lick her nose, how to lick my nose, how to act as a living heating pad (that one didn’t require work really- it’s basically just a variation of snuggling). Zoey will stay on the bed/ couch with me all day as my nurse, and then she is thrilled to see Joe when he comes in from work. It’s a lot of fun seeing him play with her and burning off her pent up energy after she has spent a day being my little canine nurse.
(Zoey says, “Hi, blog world!”)
2. TV like a pro.
Okay, no one knows Netflix, onDemand, Amazon Prime Video, etc, better than someone who is sick. In the first few months of marriage, Joe and I watched 5 seasons of Dexter, 7 seasons of Greys Anatomy, and more movies than I could ever remember. If you feel so horrible that you don’t feel like interacting, mindless television is wonderful. Also, I have decided that at any given time Law and Order: SVU, Golden Girls, and a Harry Potter movie always seem to be playing on some channel. These are my stand-by shows when Joe is at work, because it would be borderline sinful to watch one of our series without him.
3. Fun text friends.
If you spend too long stuck in your house, you’ll start to feel like a hermit. This is when it’s important to have “friends on the outside.” Seriously, if I feel horrible for a few days, I start to believe that I have become completely useless. I feel like I no longer have the skills necessary to engage in a conversation or act in a way that’s socially acceptable (Wearing last night’s pajamas all day isn’t socially acceptable is it? Even at Wal-Mart?). So, I text. I realize that makes me sound like a teenage girl (I wish!), but it helps. I text my mom silly pictures of stuff I see online, and she lovingly answers me as though that’s the most normal thing ever. I text my friend Leslie about television shows and basic commentary on everyday life (She’s great. Everyone needs a friend that will put up with your mindless chatter!). I even text Joe, but he’s typically at work (or on the other end of the house) and can’t reply immediately.
Spouses/ Caregiver friends, I can’t begin to explain how much a thoughtful surprise means when you feel awful.
See all those lovely Disney creatures? That’s only the tip of the ice berg. For a long time, Joe brought me a stuffed animal every time I felt bad. It absolutely meant the world to me on rough days. I’m guessing at this point there are 100+ in our house. Every time guests come in they start trying to figure out where we’re hiding the children . . . Nope, no children. Just a really needy, sometimes pitiful wife! 🙂 At this point, Joe is convinced that there isn’t a stuffed animal left in our small town- except at our house. So, he just buys me grape slushes from Sonic. You can’t snuggle them, but as a person who typically has a fever, the cold, grape-y, deliciousness is quite helpful.
5. Game time.
In our second year of marriage, Joe and I started to burn out on nightly television marathons (Blasphemy, I know!). Instead, we downloaded Monopoly onto our phones and had nightly Monopoly tournaments against each other. If you want to really test your relationship, try talking your husband into letting you buy Park Place from him when you already own Boardwalk. It doesn’t matter how sick I am, he’s not falling for it.
Also, find a team to support. Joe is a huge University of Tennessee fan (huge in terms of support- he’s not a particularly large fan), and I am all about some University of Kentucky basketball. So, during half the year, we tolerate the other one’s teams for the sake of peace and unity. But this year, we’ve find our team. He introduced me to the world of Major League Baseball, and I’m hooked. He was smart; he scheduled himself to speak at a conference in Atlanta during a Braves home stand, so (on a healthy day, obviously) we went to a couple games. I fell in love with the team (and #2- BJ UPTON!), and the rest is history. So now, we look forward to watching Braves games together. As a matter of fact, we schedule our day around their game time. Is that pathetic? Yes, yes it is.
The point is, life doesn’t stop because I feel bad. Some days, it grinds to an achingly slow pace, but it can’t stop. I have relationships, and it’s my responsibility to do all I can. I’ve given up feeling guilty for what I can’t do (normally, but of course I still have guilty days), but I can’t give up on doing the things that I can do to protect the relationships in my life and love the people who are so kind as to love me.
** This post came after a couple days of feeling rough, and my brain is still a little foggy. So, if it is more sporadic and garbled than usual, my apologies, friends. I’ll try to get a little tougher before I post again.