Every so often, I check the stats on this blog to see how people are finding it. I don’t do this with the intention of changing anything; it’s just interesting to know what people are looking for. And sometimes kind of funny, when someone has searched something like “what to do when you vacuum up a pair of stockings” and ended up on one of my posts. Sorry to whoever that was – I really doubt you found anything helpful here!
Last night, though, I found some search keywords that caught me off guard. “How to be happy with autoimmune” and “Upset over confirmation of lupus.” I don’t know if this was the same person searching, or if it was just a coincidence. Either way, I really felt for the person.
After seeing this, I wondered if they had found anything helpful on here. Most of the time, I’d consider myself to be a happy person, even with all the health problems. But I haven’t always been. Each diagnosis has hit me pretty hard, and I have suffered from periods of depression in the past.
Recently, I was asked what my advice would be for someone newly diagnosed. This probably ties in to this quite well. So, this isn’t quite a “how to be happy” guide, but this is what I want to say to people newly diagnosed and to the person who made those searches, if they happen to stop by here again.
Allow yourself time to grieve.
Every diagnosis, I’ve had a period of grief for. At the start of this year, I was very down after being diagnosed with lupus. A few months ago, I had some very tearful weeks when that diagnosis went away again. It’s normal to felt kind of crap when you’ve just found out you have a chronic illness or when you’re feeling stressed out by symptoms that don’t yet have a diagnosis. Cry if you need to. I’m rather fond of watching sad movies and books, and pretending I’m just crying for the fictional characters, but crying just for yourself is all good too. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to stop moping, or asks you “when you’re going to get on with your life?” Like any type of grief you need to do it in your own time and in your own way.
Whether it’s in real life, or online, getting in touch with other people with chronic illnesses was one of the best things I ever did. Ask questions, or just have a rant, with people who understand what you’re going through. If you’re not sure where to start, have a look at Super Young Arthritics of New Zealand on facebook – it’s worldwide, not just NZ and full of awesome people.
Laugh. A lot.
Funny movies, good friends, whatever it is that works for you. Do things you enjoy. If you can’t do the things you enjoy because of pain or fatigue, are there parts of the things you used to enjoy you can still do? Are there some hobbies you can still do, even if you can’t do all of them? What is it that you like about these activities? Is there something else that gives you the same feeling? Remember it’s not all or nothing. Just because you can’t do something in the way you used to do it, doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do it all.
Enjoy the ridiculous.
I have a pretty dark sense of humour at times. I’ve always been a fan of laughing at myself, and having chronic illness does provide a lot of material. Sometimes it confuses other people, when I laugh about the fact that I got stuck on the floor, or some other ridiculous thing that’s happened. Believe me, I’m not laughing at the time. But afterwards, being able to see the funny side really helps me. I think this has also helped me, when it comes to being more open with people about what’s going on. Sometimes it’s hard to tell people about the illness stuff, because I don’t want people to think I’m complaining and I don’t want to bring them (and myself) down. At the same time, I’ve always been someone who needs to talk about things to process them. For me, talking about the funny stuff, and laughing about the ridiculous things that happen, has often worked as a good compromise.
There’s also a slightly malicious side of me, that enjoys messing with people a little. When people ask me why I walk with a crutch, sometimes I’ll tell them I got bitten by a mountain goat or some other silly story. Even if you’re not actively trying to mess with people, their reactions to stuff can be pretty funny. I’ll never forget the day I’d left my front door open, and a poor delivery person walked in on me injecting my stomach with methotrexate (I did explain I’m not a drug addict, but I’m not sure she believed me.)
Everyone has stories about weird or funny things that have happened to them in life. My guess is, the delivery woman went home and told her friends about the strange woman she walked in on, injecting herself. Illness doesn’t have to be off limits from these crazy stories.
Tell someone how you’re feeling.
Whether it’s your doctor, or a friend or family member, if you’re feeling really down make sure someone you trust knows what you’re going through. If the first person you try telling doesn’t get it, talk to someone else. Going to a counsellor can be really helpful as well. I worked for a mental health helpline for years, and few times when I was in a bad space, I did call the very service I worked for myself. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help or support. And if it goes from feeling down, to thoughts of hurting yourself, please seek support immediately. Things can always get better, even if it doesn't always feel like that.
Thanks for reading
Little Miss Autoimmune.