Many chronic illnesses leave us in relentless pain while many are episodic, flaring up at times and lowering at others. Sometimes the flares follow a pattern that allow us to anticipate them but often they do not and we end up with symptoms ablaze and no solid idea as to what went wrong. When we are stuck in the throws of this, what can anyone say or do that can possibly help? Here are 6 things that are helpful for me. Please feel free to leave a comment with what is helpful for you to hear when your illness/es intensify.
- It’s not your fault. We can worry ourselves sick trying to figure out what we could have done to avoid the torture we’re experiencing so that we can avoid it in the future but the sorry state of things is often that the illness has a pattern that we do not control. If you are flaring I will offer this: it is not your fault you are flaring. You do not have to carry the burden of living through the flare and figuring out the flare.
- You do not deserve this. There are many messages we encounter that stress we create in our realities. These messages can come back to haunt us during a flare. If you are flaring, allow me to say: you do not deserve this. It is just what is happening.
- You work so hard! Similar to not deserving a flare, I find recognition as to how hard I work to heal and live with my illness to be really affirming. If you are flaring, please know: you work harder than many can imagine to live with your condition, this work is very hard and real.
- What do you need? We know that folks with chronic illnesses get much unsolicited advice. Advice that can add to a sense that we ought to do more or do differently. Having lived with our illnesses, we are experts on our needs and often need help to meet them during a flare. Some lemon water, a bath run, or some ice might help me immensely but I might be too tired and pain filled to know how to initiate a conversation about it. If you are flaring: I see your expertise in your own condition.
- Tell me about what’s happening. When I’m flaring, pain is my day. Pain is so isolating. We are the only ones in side our experiences and it can be profoundly lonely. When someone takes that time to ask about my experience, I can feel less alone in the symptoms. If you are flaring: And if it is of use to you, I invite you to share what is happening for you today (comment sections can be wonderful things).
- That really sucks! There are, of course, many variations on this theme. Basically, the point is that rather than trying to help a person embrace what they are going through or be grateful for it, some empathetic exclamations can go a long way. If you are flaring today: that sucks! I’m sorry. It bites. And it should bloody well stop already.
One of the challenging things about having a daily yoga practice and a chronic illness is the way yoga asks us to be present with what is happening in this moment. When I am flaring, I want to escape my current embodiment. While I support some doses of escapism, the attempts to outrun the feelings a flare can evoke are exhausting. Knowing what can subtly shift our experience from isolation and self blame to one of community and support can equip us with the capacity to be in our own experience as it is. If you are flaring, this is my wish for you. And that your flare ends. That too.