Most people with chronic illness experience a crash once in a while.
It happened to me recently. I felt well (as well as someone with fibro, CFS, arthritis and trigeminal neuralgia can feel). I was managing my conditions, volunteering, spending time with family and friends keeping up with household tasks. Then one day I woke up feeling exhausted, dizzy and my pain was exaggerated.
Sometimes there’s no reason for these episodes. Other times I’ve over extended myself and not practiced skills like pacing, relaxation and time management. But this time it was due to a thyroid imbalance. It’s a simple fix with an increase in medication dosage.
I’ve been dealing with these crashes for 16 years. At first I let the symptoms manage me. I went to bed and isolated myself until I felt better. That caused more problems. My pain increased because of inactivity. I became depressed because I was socially isolated. And I was hurting my family by not engaging with them. I was spending all my time in bed or sitting in a lounge chair. I wasn’t motivated to help myself. I was afraid to look the least bit well during these times because I didn’t understand the concept of chronic illness and self management.
Over the years I’ve learned that by managing symptoms I can still have a quality life during these episodes. Relationships with family and friends have improved. I’ve done lot of work to get here but it can be done.
This is how I managed the recent crash:
I rested for a few hours every day. If I was really tired I took a nap, keeping in mind that sleeping during the day can interfere with the sleep cycle.
I remained physically active. Daily stretching and short walks were important because getting stiff causes the pain of fibro and arthritis to increase.
I cancelled a few appointments so that I could get some rest. I also declined a few invitations so that I could get reenergized. It’s okay to say no once in a while.
I did household tasks in stages. Who cares if it takes 3 days to do laundry? I also caught up on filing while watching television.
My meals were easy to prepare items like oven baked chicken and salad from a bag. (Helpful hint: line the pan with parchment paper and cleanup will be a breeze!) I buy convenience items like individual frozen meals for these occasions. They are great to have on hand. And muffins, veggies and fruit are good snack foods. Drinking lots of water helps too.
There were times I didn’t want to get out of bed but I forced myself to. Routine is important. I pushed myself because I knew I could do it.
I stayed connected with friends and family. That was important because there were times I felt down and they helped me get through.
It takes determination and positivity to get through an episode like this. Remember this is going to come to an end.
Don’t isolate yourself, stick to a routine and force yourself to move. You can do it!
Check with your health care provider if you feel unwell for an extended period of time.
Have you experienced a chronic illness crash? If so how did you manage?