BEING CREATIVE IN THE MIDST OF CHRONIC ILLNESS.
My name is Lori. I’ve been living with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for over 20 years. For a lot of those years, I was able to keep the same pace I did before my diagnosis. I worked, played softball, rode my mountain bike, was active around the house and spent a lot of time puttering in the garage working on all sorts of projects. I’m not a “maker” in the traditional creative sense, but I’m all about home improvement projects, working in the yard, and if something breaks, tinkering with it to see if I can fix it.
As I’ve gotten older and had MS longer, I’ve discovered that now there are more things in the “I can’t (or shouldn’t) do” column than the “I can”. I’m a bit embarrassed to say, but I’ve gotten mad, cried, stomped my feet (figuratively, I’ve tried to literally and it looks like I’m marching and is ridiculously funny), felt sorry for myself and given up on trying more times than I’d care to admit.
But, for me, every time, God has found a way to remind me that He created me uniquely, with specific gifts, desires, and limitations. I’m always brought back to a place of relying on Him for everything and letting go of myself.
Whether you trust in God or not, here are 5 things that I hope will encourage you to navigate your way to being creative and doing what inspires you even with a chronic illness. Just remember you are still a M-A-K-E-R.
Manage your expectations.
I can’t do half the things I used to but I’m still a list maker. If I’m realistic about what I can accomplish in a day and shoot for that, I feel more successful and hopeful at the end of it. Remember that even a little progress on a project is still progress, and that’s a huge win!
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. Everyone’s circumstances and personal challenges are unique to them. If you need to figure out how to create sitting or even laying down, do it. If you need the help of family or friends, ask. If you need to develop your own techniques or functional aids that will help you with your project, go for it. There will be times you just can’t make something happen the way you want. That’s frustrating (I Know!!) but not necessarily an insurmountable obstacle. Don’t be satisfied with saying “I can’t” and giving up completely.
Kill it on the days you can, and kick back when you can’t.
I don’t know about you, but I have good days and bad, sometimes good and bad stretches within a single day. If you’re dealing with a chronic illness, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I know that my brain and body function better earlier in the day so that’s when I try to be the most productive and I’m learning to give myself grace for the times I just need to rest. I have to remind myself to keep a balance and not overdo it.
Encourage someone else.
It’s hard to focus on your own limitations when you’re cheering someone else on. Sometimes a positive interaction with another person is exactly what I need to break me out of the cycle of negative thoughts swirling around in my head. If you truly believe the words you’re saying to encourage someone else, why not turn them back on yourself and believe in what you CAN do instead of focusing on what you can’t?
I’m no nutritionist or even one of those awesome folks that does a ton of research into diet, exercise and supplements. I just know that when I eat well, drink plenty of water, rest when I need to, and feed my soul, I’m a lot better for it. This isn’t a magic bullet for MS or any other chronic illness, I’m just sayin’... The reality is there are days when I do everything right and I still feel horrible. That’s just the nature of the beast. Those are the days I have to be intentional about thanking God for all of the great things in my life and asking Him to take my weakness and infuse me with His strength.