As I thought about the topic of “Simplify,” and how to ultimately live a more simple existence, I was immediately brought back to the first few years of my autoimmune life. Not that I don’t continue to work on this every day, but my initial few years were full of so much growth and getting rid of too much guilt.
There’s one thing that is a constant when you talk to individuals who deal with chronic illness or autoimmune diseases: their lives got flipped, turned upside down (where my Fresh Prince fans at!?) In dealing with autoimmunity, you are forced to embrace a “new normal” whether that includes physical limitations, a different routine, new medications, or a mixture of everything. That new normal can become a strong negative or a strong positive in your life depending on how you look at it, and depending on if you allow yourself the growth and introspective work.
It may feel like you find yourself constantly comparing your autoimmune situation to your “old life.” But what good is that doing to your mental health? I can guarantee very little. There are a lot of things in your control with autoimmunity, but there are just as many out of your control that you have to let go. There is nothing better than learning how to simplify your life or your day to day routine in order to better manage your symptoms, or even to better leave room for an unknown flare-up.
I hate to give you another side effect of autoimmune diseases since we spend many of our days dealing with the side effects of symptoms, medications, or both. However, this one might not be something that you are consciously aware is creeping into the picture.
I present to you: GUILT
When your friends ask you to head out to a concert or a night on the town, but your fatigue and pain make it impossible to be able to or want to go. And you know you should exercise more but your energy levels are next to depleted. When you made plans weeks ago, but the day is here and you just can’t bring yourself to make the effort.
By the time I noticed that I wasn’t able to do every single thing or attend every single event as much as I was able to do beforehand, I didn’t expect to feel the level of guilt that I felt in saying no, or rescheduling. You feel like you are a burden, or that you might lose your friends, or what if they stop asking? I won’t tell you that could never happen, but if some of the people in your life do stop asking, they weren’t your real friends in the first place.
Guess what? None of that matters. What matters as the #1 in your life is your health and wellbeing. After almost a decade of dealing with multiple autoimmune diseases, one of the best things I’ve put into practice is the idea of simplifying my priorities and simplifying my guilt. Sure – there are still times that I want to do more and my body just doesn’t want to let me. However, the fact that I’ve been able to simplify what is the most important to me (my husband, my career, sleep, self-care) has also allowed me to cut myself some slack in the guilt department.
For the majority of my days (because no one is perfect), I no longer feel guilty rescheduling or turning something down because I’ve weighed the impact and the priority for my life. That’s not to say I always say no, or I don’t ignore all my body’s warning signs sometimes, but those days are fewer and farther between because I have learned what my physical and mental health needs to not only survive, but thrive.
I encourage you to spend time reflecting on what your simple priorities are in life – what not only fosters growth, but also fosters healthy body and mind? Once you’ve identified these for yourself – repeat a mantra every day to not feel guilty for anything that negatively impacts those priorities or anything that will prevent you from the stability autoimmune diseases demand. ❤️