Noticing the signs when you're becoming overwhelmed by your illness and what to do about it.
You're feeling stressed, every little thing is getting to you, if just one more person asks you to do something or questions what you're doing you're going to scream/lose it/cry....(fill in the blank.)
We've all been there and I know that when I was really poorly, during my bedbound years it took less to get me to this stage. Life was a battle, from fighting my illness, to battling with doctors and the "system" in general, meant I was always on the defensive, just waiting for the next attack, the next thing I had to protect myself from.
It was exhausting and emotional and I was, I'll admit it, snappy. I'd bite people's heads off i.e. my family. I had absolutely no patience and at times I felt like people were either a) stupid or b) deliberately trying to wind me up; but a lot of the time I was too stressed out to realise when I was over-reacting or being snappy. Does this sound familiar? How do you handle stress? Do you recognise the signs?
For a long time, deep down, I thought I was just an aggressive, not very nice person who was difficult to live with. That was a hard thing to cope with - I felt really bad about myself. Who'd want to be around someone so awful?
As I've got a bit better and life at home has become less stressful I've realised that I'm not an awful person. I do still snap sometimes; but I've realised it's when I'm stressed and feeling overwhelmed, especially true if I'm going through a relapse or handling some other scary thing - letter/form/appointment.
I've also realised that I can do things about it and my snapping is just a warning sign that I need to help myself. I can make things better, or at least reduce my stress level and feelings of overwhelm. If I can do it, you can to.
Five tips to recognise you're overwhelmed
1. Start to be aware of what you're saying - this can be hard to do and difficult to admit to yourself. Don't judge yourself or beat yourself up when you realise, just notice and know that it's just a sign that you need to do something differently.
2. Are little things getting to you? Silly things like wanting to burst into tears if you knock over a drink. I've literally cried over spilled milk.
3. Is your health suffering? Are you getting more and/or worse symptoms? Can you trace it back to a specific event or time frame? What was going on for you? It's all about cause and effect.
4. Are you feeling physically tense? Shoulders aching, keep getting a stiff neck, headaches? Feel like you have a band of tension around your chest? Tap in to these sensations, they can often make you aware of your emotions much faster than you can mentally make the connection you're feeling stressed.
5. Ask other people to tell you when you're getting stressed or snapping - okay this might be the hardest thing, because when you're in that stressed out place the last thing you want is for people to say you're being stroppy. It makes me even worse! This is a last resort and you may need a code word - we used to call my brother Kevin when he was being a stroppy teenager, after the Harry Enfield comedy character. It worked, he'd look a bit embarrassed; but cheer up!
I'm an author, disability activist, winner of the Good Housekeeping First Novel Competition and The EABA for Fiction 2020 and co-founder of Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses (ADCI).
The Choice is available from:
Title: The Choice
You can keep up to date with all my latest blog posts by signing up to my email newsletter.