A few weeks ago, I was experiencing an autoimmune flare. Physically, I couldn’t see where the energy from the day was coming from. I powered through the day exhausted, but was not sleeping well. Emotionally, I was either on edge or panicking. It took longer to do simple tasks, and I started worrying about the future because I never felt rested.
It truly is difficult to find the root cause when dozens of symptoms are swirling around in your brain.
So I went back to the basics. Breathe. Gentle yoga. Short walks. No sugar. No caffeine. Lots of meat, veggies, avocados and sun-butter. Resting and saying no to lots of commitments. Simple visits with friends.
Quickly, my circadian rhythm returned and I was sleeping 8-9 hours a night without waking up. I knew that it was a good sign when I started falling asleep at 8:30pm on the couch (even though I missed the Cubs’ win!).
One of the most difficult things about a flare, is that you are still expected to live in the “land of the well.” I have a job to do, errands to run, food to make, and commitments to attend to. But once a flare hits, you feel this immediate desire to return to the “land of the sick.”
Because that world matches how you feel.
Because your health has been bad enough that you know what a flare could turn into.
Because people who are sick can empathize to a greater degree.
Because you don’t want to feel like you have to defend your actions.
Because you want people to know that your job performance may not look like it’s suffering, but you are saving every ounce of energy, just to get out of bed and go to work.
Because you wished you looked sick, because then people might understand a little better.
And yet, I’m also learning that the initial desire to “hide” from the healthy world may be essential for the short term, depending on how intense the flare up. However, it’s also detrimental in the long run.
Though they may be few, there are healthy people, who truly do want to understand what it’s like to live with a chronic illness. So, I’m learning to be honest, with the small, mundane details of being sick, because ultimately this is more healing for me than hiding. More than anything, I need to know that people still care. I need to feel believed that my intuition is correct about how my body is reacting, even if I look healthy from the outside.
What flares teach me more than anything, is that healing is still happening. The steps are small, but they are not insignificant. I’m still learning to trust other people, even as I trust what my body is telling me. As I continue to trust other people with my story, I’m choosing to lean into my messy past, and face into when doctors and friends didn’t believe me.
Flares remind me that I’m limited, and that my health is a gift. My own decisions affect my health, and I don’t just want my health to be limited to the food I eat. It includes the people on the journey with me.
Those brave people who are willing to say, “I’m walking this journey with you.”