Chronic Illness and the Writer: A Series (Part 3)

Today’s post brings to a close this series. The first and second posts on chronic illness and the writer can be found here and here. The five remaining tips for coping with chronic illness and/or pain are shared below. As stated before, I’m not qualified to say these will work for everyone. I share them because, on occasion, they have worked for me. You know your body better than anyone and your illness as well. Let no one tell you what will work best for you. Decide for yourself. 

Tips for the not so good days.

If you need a refresher of the first five tips, take a moment to go back and review those in this post.

6. Practice Acceptance.

We all have dreams. Some come true. Some don’t. The part of my dream that came true is the publishing of several essays for inclusion in anthologies. So far my bestseller hasn’t seen publication.

Nothing would be more fulfilling than to have my memoir published alongside others in my online writing family. But it hasn’t happened for me. Soon after retirement, I began planning to my memoir, and I have a completed draft which I’ve revised again and again. What I didn’t plan for were the health issues that came galloping into my life. Continuing spine degeneration and chronic pain more or less control many of my days now. I find myself forced to accept the things I likely won’t do as a writer.
 
I have learned and also accepted that it takes me longer than others to complete tasks and projects. Patience isn’t one of my best traits, and learning acceptance of what isn’t going to happen is hard for me. There are days when my mental processes won’t wrap around my writing goals and projects. Some days I’m too fatigued to write. Or the pain is too much and the medications make me sleepy.

Acceptance is all I can do on those days. If you have to work through this process, please learn to practice acceptance with grace.

7. Put your health first.

This topic probably should have come earlier in the list of tips, but I think anyone with a chronic illness knows that putting your health first is important. If you have a day when nothing works to keep you comfortable other than taking a nap, take that nap. With a chronic illness or pain, your body and its systems are already compromised. Doing what your body requires will keep you feeling better in the long run.

On the “not so good” days it may be that all you feel like writing is one sentence. If that’s all you can get out, congratulate yourself. Perhaps using these days to brainstorm a new project is the best purpose you’ll find. Envision your characters and begin to structure their personalities. Another good use of down days is to read books by other authors. Learning from other writers is one of the best ways to learn how to write.

8. Seek out a support network either online or in your community.

As writers, we are encouraged to build a community of support and encouragement. As a chronically ill writer, this is even more important to your well-being and writing life.

The worst thing about a chronic illness or condition is being alone. Writers tend to work alone for the most part so it isn’t something new to those of us limited by our health issues. Yet, as you look around, you see everyone else looking healthy and energetic, having fun and being happy. And there you sit all alone taking medications and feeling sorry for yourself. Wouldn’t it be better if you had a place to go where others understand what you’re going through? After all, if they’re going through the same situation, there’ll be understanding and compassion.

One of the best ways to find such a network or supportive community is the internet. Take a look at Facebook or websites focused on your illness for recommendations. I’ve joined a couple of Facebook groups and have gotten answers to questions and found support on bad days. On good days, I can then encourage others. It’s a great way to find common ground with others in your situation.

9. Use a to-do list to reward yourself.

Rewarding yourself from time to time for even the smallest accomplishments is a great motivator. Using a to-do list not only gives you a way to track the things you want to accomplish but also a way to assign a reward of some kind when you check off an item. For example, if you write 500 words, allow yourself a certain amount of time on social media. Or let’s say I finish my book. I can buy myself that piece of exquisite pottery I’ve been wanting. This is a way to work your way through smaller amounts of the work effort and at the same time give yourself a reason to feel good about what you’re accomplishing on your good days. And sometimes even on the not so good days.

If you are looking for an app to help with tracking your tasks, look at one or more of the following: (1) Todoist (free/premium options) lets you keep track of everything in one place; (2) Wunderlist (free/premium options) tracks your tasks for home, office, school and more; (3) Microsoft To-Do (free) keeps your day in focus; (4) Ike (free) is a playful to-do list created in the spirit of President Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower; and (5) Habitica – Gamify Your Tasks (free) helps motivate you to get things done using a video game to improve your life habits. I’m not a user of any of these apps. I use Google Calendar to track things I need to accomplish–simply and easily. And free!

10. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

Whether it’s meeting writing goals, progress made in physical therapy or nutritional therapy, or completing an online course, celebrate your successes! Remember as you struggle with a chronic illness each day you’re up against obstacles not everyone else has to battle.

Did you get out of bed this morning despite the depression you’ve been fighting? Maybe you finished that short story and submitted it to a contest despite the fact that your fingers and hands were enveloped in pain. Or is that book on its way to the publisher? If any of these or some other accomplishment found its way into your life, celebrate the victory over your situation.

Don’t let the impossibility you feel about big goals get you down. Look at the small accomplishments you’ve already made. See how far you’ve come. Look at the number of bad days you’ve already survived. Set your modesty aside and be proud of yourself!

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Header Image Attribution: Chronic Fatigue Clinic

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Coming soon:

  • A look at successful writers despite their battles with chronic illnesses.
  • Review of a new memoir by a young man from Cameroon and the struggles he has overcome.
  • Some time for a couple of day in the life posts (if you aren’t familiar with these, check out this and another).

2 thoughts on “Chronic Illness and the Writer: A Series (Part 3)

  1. Your 3 part series is great, Sherry. I have chronic pain and I’m aging and slowing down. The spoon theory is very familiar to me. Your posts were very helpful. Thanks,

    1. Joan, none of this is fun, is it? But the alternative isn’t what I’m looking for either. 🙂 Glad to know you’ve used the spoon theory and that the posts were helpful. Good to hear from you.

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