One Hour at a Time…
Life can be very overwhelming for so many reasons. You certainly don’t need me to tell you that life can be stressful and feel insurmountable at times.
Over my 17 years of living with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), I can tell you that I have had some long, long, long, unimaginably hard days/weeks/months/years. As with so many of you reading this know, having a severe case of Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis can often make you feel like you have no idea how you are going to get through the day, let alone the rest of your life. I don’t mean to be morbid but I have personally felt, and want others to know they are not alone if these feelings have also entered their mind, that I just flat out had no clue how I’d find the mental or physical strength to get through what I was about to go through or currently dealing with.
I would get insanely overwhelmed which would cause me so much anxiety.
If I knew I had a long drive into the hospital the next day for tests, surgery, procedure, or just an appointment, I would never sleep the night before. If I was inpatient and just knew all of the things that were going to occur that day, let alone the unpredictable ones, it would wreak havoc on me mentally which of course, wouldn’t help me physically.
Even non-medically related things can cause a lot of anxiety for me and I know others who suffer from a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD.) Traveling, going out to dinner, attending any social gathering, doing something new, going on a date, etc can be especially nerve wracking for those of us who suffer from a severe chronic illness. What I mean by this is that so many of us deal with a lot more challenges than one would even think or expect. Oftentimes it takes a lot of energy for us to get ready and prepare for things.
For example (and this may sound crazy to those people who don’t have a chronic illness) but it is a huge deal for me to shower and get ready. The act of showering, blow drying my hair, straightening it if need be, putting my contacts in, putting some makeup on, and getting dressed is an ordeal. Sadly. Very sadly, actually. Finding something to wear is also a drain given all the size and body fluctuations. And when I want my nails to be done, I have to do that on an entirely different day as well. I would imagine the same would be true if a guy wanted to shave before going somewhere.
I have found, at the advice of my mom, that breaking up stressful, busy or emotional days/situations into parts can be very helpful. Some would even say “one hour at a time” which I have tried to do also.
Some ways in which I like to break things up for a day of medical “stuff” …
Lay out the clothes I want to wear the night before.
I make sure they fit, aren’t too wrinkled, appropriate for the weather, and is something I don’t have to think twice about.
Know that even though a shower is the last thing I want to do early in the morning, it will make for a much better day. Feeling clean changes so much for me, as weird as that sounds. I also know that if something should happen and I God forbid had to be admitted, I would have at least showered that day. I don’t do my hair on these days, put contacts in and there might have been a handful of times (if that) when I put makeup on.
Disclaimer: There have been plenty of times when I was too sick to shower. It wasn’t even a thought or something I could physically do either because I was too weak, the pain was too severe or I was attached to too many things (ex, drains, picc lines.) In this case, I have been lucky enough to have someone help make sure I am clean the night before. That may just mean washing my hair in the sink and shaving whatever I have to outside of the shower. Or, it may mean a super quick shower where I immediately was able to lay down for an extended period of time afterwards.
If I am driving, I have a lot more anxiety than if someone is taking me but regardless, the act of just getting to where I have to be is another small victory in the day to me.
Going through either the appointment, test or procedure (or some combination!) is obviously a huge part of it all.
Finally, the trip back home.
Planning for something not medically related is another story and another article but I think you get the picture. If you look at an entire scenario, oftentimes it can seem really huge. Probably bigger than it actually is. But when you break things down into much smaller parts, it allows your brain to compartmentalize a bit and focus on one doable task at a time. It registers differently in your brain when you are focusing on one thing first such as getting ready for an upcoming test.
Otherwise, a person’s brain can think “I have to get ready which really sucks cause I am so tired and have no clue what I will wear or what on earth fits me and then I have to drive there and when I am there I will need to do this that and the other thing and omg what happens if I get lost and I am late and will this test hurt and hopefully they will treat me with kindness and how will the traffic be on the way home cause omg I am going to be so upset if I rushed and they are all backed up cause ugh I really just want to sleep and am in pain”…yikes!
When your brain is trying to process all of that, it can send so much anxiety and stress throughout your body.
The chemicals that are sent by thinking “okay, I have to get ready which will be a bit difficult since I don’t feel well at all but once I do that I will be so glad I did and one step closer to getting through this” are way different! I am not a doctor, researcher, or scientist (I am the worst at science!) but I know from personal experience how powerful our minds can be. I am sure all of you aren’t new to that concept either.
With the holidays and just in life, I have found that breaking up the day can be really helpful and better for my mental health (and consequently, physical health.) If you are someone who gets overwhelmed, anxious, or flustered fairly easily when it comes to going through a lot with your IBD (Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis), you are so far from alone. I know the tips I and the other contributors share aren’t always doable or applicable to everyone so please feel free to share some of your own ideas, tips and thoughts!