23 Strange New Habits…

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I’ve developed some new habits since my sarcoidosis diagnosis, maybe others with chronic illness have too….I don’t know. I do know these habits, for better or worse help me cope. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. I put a blanket on my lap even when it is 80 degrees outside. I’m usually cold or at least chilled all the time now.
  2. I can’t be outside anymore without sunglasses, even on dark days. My eyes are now incredibly sensitive to light.
  3. I keep my house very clean. Not that I was a slob before my sarcoidosis, but now that I spend so much time at home, I find having a very orderly house gives me a feeling of control.
  4. I’ve become more of a loner. I’m still a people person but being alone a lot now, I’ve learned to really enjoy my own company. When I am alone, I don’t have to pretend I feel better than I do. There is an ease and relief now in being on my own.
  5. I read a lot more. I’ve always loved to read but before my diagnosis, I didn’t have a lot of time for it. Now that I don’t work, I find great comfort, good company and wonderful escape in reading.
  6. I developed a habit for writing. I’m shocked that I started this blog and share all my “dirty laundry” but, writing is a release and it does help keep my mind active and my feelings sorted out.
  7. I keep a daily gratitude list. I’ve always been a grateful person but there is something about losing your health that changes your outlook. You can either decide to appreciate life all the more, especially the little things or, you can feel tremendous self pity. I’d rather be grateful. I am purposely grateful now in a way I wasn’t before being diagnosed with sarcoidosis.
  8. I take a lot more photographs. I find having visual memories to look at of happy and beautiful things, especially on bad days, helps my mood. I also enjoy photography as a hobby. Having hobbies you can manage is really important when you’re chronically ill. It provides a continued sense of self which could otherwise be lost.
  9. I enjoy watching reruns of old Law and Order episodes. There’s something about the predictable structure of that show that brings me comfort.
  10. I have conversations with my dog. My husband thinks I am becoming a crazy dog lady but my dog is my best friend. She never judges me and is always ready to provide comfort or distraction.
  11. I spend more time on the internet now. I do this for a few reasons. One is my blog but, I also help administrate two sarcoidosis support groups online. I am also an admin on Facebook for an Old English Sheepdog group…surprise, surprise! I’ve actually met some truly fantastic people through the internet. I consider a few of them very good friends.
  12. I enjoy cooking now. Sometimes I have to use a stool because my legs get too weak to stand for long periods, especially at the end of the day, but I love being in the kitchen these days. It’s not just a means to an end,  cooking has become a joy….probably because I have time to put some effort into it since I no longer work. My husband likes this new habit!
  13. I experience anxiety before we travel for big trips. I never used to have this problem but, now when you take me out of the safety of my home and my routine, I never know what my body will do and that’s a little freaky. I used to love to travel too but now, it takes me a few days mentally just to prepare for it. The aftermath of a trip is also very hard on my body.
  14. I like routine now…a lot!
  15. I cry more easily than I used to and I HATE this. UGH! I was never much of a crier before. Now, I might just cry for no reason at all.
  16. I don’t judge things I don’t understand anymore. I realize now that I have sarcoidosis, and I am often misunderstood, that there are things I can’t know.
  17. I’ve become a morning person. I was never a morning person before my disease. I was much more a night owl. Now, mornings are when I have the most energy and can get the most done. Mornings have become my favorite part of the day because as the day goes on, my pain and fatigue catch up with me.
  18. I think less. My mind is not as active but this is probably a good thing because I also worry less.
  19. I don’t eat much anymore. While I do love cooking now,  I rarely have a big appetite and a lot of food has a weird metal taste to it. I would forget to eat entirely were it not for the fact that I have to feed my husband.
  20. I drink a lot more water. I used to be horrible at staying hydrated. Now, I always have a tumbler of ice water near by.
  21. I rub Vicks Vapor Rub on my legs when they ache. It helps take the knots out and eases some of the pain,
  22. I can no longer sleep curled up on my right side. Ever since my open lung surgery, my entire right rib cage is messed up and a lot of times I have to take melatonin in order to get a really good restful sleep.
  23. I don’t dwell on stupid stuff much anymore. I still have my moments but, mostly the stupid stuff that people say and do says more about them than it does about me and, I know this now in a way I didn’t before my sarcoidosis diagnosis.
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From “The Mighty” – A Great Blog For The Chronically Ill

When I read this article…I thought it perfectly and entirely summed up what others need to know about me because of my chronic sarcoidosis. All eight items describe me and it’s as if the writer reached into my head and stole my private thoughts. Number six is especially true for me. I hate to ask for help but more than that, I hate the thought that others might believe I am weak, so I soldier on and sometimes it gets very very very lonely.

https://themighty.com/2016/11/being-sick-and-how-to-be-supportive/

Routine…Can’t Live With It…Can’t Live Without It

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Routine is not a matter of comfort for people with sarcoidosis. Routine is a matter of survival. Those of us with chronic disease depend on routine to manage everything from physical pain to body numbing fatigue to the constant emotional upheaval of our pain and fatigue. Routine allows us to maintain some sense of normalcy, some modicum of sanity.

It’s not always fun living a life of routine. It can be rote, repetitive and often mindless. Routines are mechanical things. They create structure and but they also lack spontaneity. Routines are both a friend and an enemy to those of us with sarcoidosis. They bring order to a world that is otherwise left chaotic in a body that won’t work properly. They also cage us in that world, forcing us to live within very limited parameters. Routines shrink our world to a manageable size but they also restrict us. They cut us off from so much else that goes on around us and sometimes they make us fearful of what lies outside of them.

When we step out of our routines the consequences can be unpredictable. Sometimes very little changes except perhaps a slight increase in fatigue. Fatigue is one thing we can always count on. No matter what we do, fatigue is always present. Other times stepping outside our routine can bring on something as severe as a flare in our disease symptoms, sometimes bad enough for hospitalization. The route our disease goes, when we change our schedule is anyone’s guess.

Having routine a for those of us with sarcoidosis, or any other chronic difficult health issue, is necessary. It is how we function at our best in most situations. Learning to create these boundaries is one of the first coping skills we learn once we are saddled with illness. Routines bring us a feeling of security, of control, when everything else feels like wildly unpredictable.

Sometimes for our own sanity, we have to try to reach beyond those boundaries though. Part of the balance of living with a disease like sarcoidosis, is learning when to push and when not to push. Finding this balance is a constant challenge but if we stay too stuck in routine, we can forget that there is a big beautiful world beyond the lines we have created for ourselves and sometimes making an effort to be part of that world is as important to our overall health as routines are. There’s always a price to be paid for stepping outside of routines but sometimes we have to weigh the cost against the benefit of taking a chance and sometimes the benefit outweighs the cost. Being stuck in routines is tedious and, while they are necessary for our physical health, they sometimes impede our mental health. Sometimes, despite the risk, it is just as important to overcome the fears we have of leaving our routine to remember that we are not defined by them or by our disease.

A Solitary Fight

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There comes a time with sarcoidosis, when you finally realize that you are truly, utterly and completely alone with your disease and, in that moment you feel like the very life is being sucked out of you, like someone ripped inside your chest and tore out your heart. That moment when you realize life with a chronic disease has finally taken everything from you, even your last bit of denial that the support of the ones closest to you will fortify you through this journey, is the loneliest moment in the history of all moments in your life. With gut wrenching power, it forever changes your understanding of the exact nature of the fight you are in. The war you wage is solitary, a duel between only two…you and your disease. It’s also the first time you realize that you might not have the resolve to win the battle.

No amount of support from outsiders can ever make them fully understand the depth of your experience and when they let you down, as they surely will, and the realization hits you that you cannot expect them to understand, you feel grief akin to death. It’s not their fault they don’t understand because no one can unless they experience it. You can’t blame them for their lack of understanding and you don’t but, you do still feel a deep sorrow in the knowledge that your disease has abandoned you forever from the rest of the world around you and the struggle before you looms with a greater sense of doom than ever before. Is there anything left to fight for?

Aloneness is a hard battle itself to wage but, to wage this feeling in a broken, beat up body and with a sense of shattered self worth because of your sarcoidosis, the aloneness takes on an entirely new meaning. Your level of vulnerability is palpable now in a way it never was before. Something has shifted, like an earthquake in your soul, as you realize that this new sense of aloneness is not really new. It was simply masked by your denial that it wasn’t really there and, by your misunderstanding that the support you do receive from the ones closest to you meant that they understood more than they actually do.

Once you have this moment, you have to figure out what you are going to do about it. How are you going to manage this new understanding of isolation and alienation? This is a question that cannot be answered easily but, in order to continue living your life, you must find a way to accept it. It begins with making peace with lowering your expectations of other people, especially those you held to such a high standard of understanding. In reality they walk beside you but since they can never be within you, they can never fully appreciate your physical pain, your emotional angst or the mental hurdles you jump just to make life seem somewhat normal.

Though the support of those closest to you will always mean a great deal and though this support is much needed to help ease the burdens you face, you must never again allow yourself to be fooled that this support is equivalent to understanding. What your loved ones feel is not empathy. It is not the ability to share your experience or to walk in your shoes. What your loved ones feel for you is sympathy. It is feeling of sorrow or pity for your situation. While easily confused because these are similar concepts, they are not the same.

In that moment when you are forced to face that pit in your stomach, when all denial is stripped and, the reality that this journey is fully solitary hits you, it is a devastating experience but, it is a required experience in dealing with and managing a life with sarcoidosis. No one will ever truly understanding the level of unease you are now obligated to live with, the quiet anxiety over the slightest change in your routine and how your body will manage it, the invisible and constant foreboding regarding what level of pain you are in, the nagging nearly undetectable worry over how you will best find the energy to manage a relentless feeling of fatigue and the mind numbing brain fog that makes daily decision making a never ending challenge.

This it.

You are now aware that you are on your own in the fight of your life.

Good luck!