Several weeks ago, after a routine ear infection, I started feeling off. Something wasn’t right. I was dealing with routine infections I don’t normally get, along with some awesome fatigue. After a trip or two to my doctor, I left with the knowledge that something I thought would be a quick fix would end up taking a month or more of treatment, testing, appointments, and medication.
I hate being on medication – I dislike timing my pills, remembering to keep especially sensitive pills at the right temperature, and I especially dislike the side effects. I couldn’t drink alcohol, which was hard to explain at parties and nights out. Often, I was nauseous, unfocused, and just tired. I was tired of feeling crappy as the weeks and doctor’s appointments dragged on, and tired of having to take it easy, take it slow, especially as summer wound down and I was trying to squeeze every last sunset out on a rooftop.
I’m now at (I think) the end of this saga, and if you’re like me, dealing with medical issues that can be a little all-consuming, there are some things you can do to protect your mental health while you tend to your physical health:
- Do all of your favorite things (that you can): For me, this is bubble baths, and lingering giant cups of coffee in the morning, and yoga. I bought a giant bag of Starbursts that lives on my kitchen counter for bad days. This is just something you do.
- Eat well: For a while, I just wanted to hole up in bed and eat chicken nuggets and pretend like this wasn’t happening. But it was, and the best way to feel good about myself was to buy some healthy groceries (to be balanced, remember, by the Starburst) and meal-prep some easy meals for the week. That way, when I was exhausted post-work and taking more pills, I could just pop something in the microwave.
- (Try) to exercise: Okay, I did not do this every day. Far from it. Aside from being barred from “strenuous activity” I was usually uncomfortable most of the time anyway, so running did not appeal to me. Yoga became my savior, as it often is. Body weight exercises did, too. But, man, you can’t beat endorphins for a mood boost. Staying active also keeps your body in tip-top shape, even when you feel like you’re not.
- Stay present: Worrying about the outcome of the next test, or if this prescription will finally work, or if you’re doing something wrong, can take the happiness out of a moment. Yes, you should pay attention to your symptoms (I kept a little symptom log in the Notes app on my phone), but don’t let it consume you. As long as you’re staying on top of it, you’re doing your best. This is the hardest advice for me to take, but it’s definitely saved weekends and nights where I would otherwise have obsessed about my heath.
I hope these help if you’re dealing with an illness or issue, too. Hopefully we’ll all get through this together! I’m certainly rooting for you.