How I Keep My Chronic Conditions From Affecting My Relationships
Taking care of myself is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships and overall well-being, but it's something I struggle with due to living with chronic conditions such as psoriasis, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and anxiety. While I've learned how to manage my symptoms and create a lifestyle that promotes balance and healing, setbacks still happen. It's a constant process of learning, adjusting, and sometimes stumbling.
For me, being physically and emotionally vulnerable can feel like a slippery slope. Small mistakes can lead to cracks in my resilience over time if I don't address them: getting less sleep, drinking more alcohol, overeating or undereating, giving in to others instead of prioritizing my own needs, neglecting exercise and meditation, delaying rest, or downplaying my pain. These cracks weaken my ability to cope with everyday stressors and handle delicate relationship dynamics. The result is frustration, irritability, and worst of all, blaming and resenting those around me.
I recently experienced this firsthand while on vacation with my mom and a lifelong friend. Instead of a relaxing retreat, it was a week filled with tension, sleeplessness, and a constant feeling of unease. Now, as I sit with feelings of shame and guilt, replaying the emotional turmoil in my mind, I turn to acceptance, boundaries, and communication to find my center once again.
Acceptance means acknowledging my physical and emotional limitations, even if I don't like them. It's understanding that sometimes I'm in pain, tire easily, have physical symptoms, or need time alone. As a perfectionist, I have a history of denying these limitations and pushing myself through various situations without considering my own well-being. This denial often leaves me physically and emotionally drained and triggers flare-ups in my conditions.
Establishing boundaries is crucial for self-care. It involves recognizing my limitations and making necessary adjustments for myself. This may mean saying no to events when I'm not feeling well, allowing myself to rest instead of pushing through. It may also involve arriving late, leaving early, or avoiding certain substances when it's necessary for my health. Asking myself if I have everything I need to make a particular situation manageable is essential. By respecting my needs and addressing them in advance, I not only make life easier for myself but also for the people I care about.
Communication is vital in preventing suffering in silence and maintaining good relationships. My loved ones can't read my mind, so it's important for me to express my needs and ask for help when necessary. Leading up to the troubled beach week, I failed to communicate my limitations and needs, and as a result, took on more tasks and responsibilities than I could handle. This self-sabotage left me exhausted and regretful. Looking back, I realize that if I had been mindful of my limitations, asked for assistance, and communicated my needs, I could have avoided this bitter outcome.