Ever been in a situation where you really want to do something but at the same time you’d rather not? Or make plans for something that you were really up for but when the times come you’ve lost interested? Or made plans on the basis of being perfectly fine, only to feel different on the day?
That’s what it’s like trying to maintain a social life alongside your chronic and/or invisible illness.
Over the last few months I would say, my social life has shriveled away. I no longer do anything after work, because I just don’t have the energy as my pain levels are often quite high, and I no longer make plans because right now, I really can’t commit. I’m also of the mindset that getting as much rest and relaxation in is important right now – if I’m struggling to work then I shouldn’t be going off doing all sorts of other things, right?
Well, wrong. Not only does what you do outside of work play into anybodies business, it’s also important that doing things you enjoy -whatever they may be – is important for your mental health, as well as your physical.
Sometimes, when there is an event or social outing coming up, I already feel negative towards it – I know that it will more than likely make my pain worse, which will then set me back further, I probably won’t be able to relax or ease my symptoms as I normally would, and it might involve conversations about things I don’t want to discuss.
Of course, my above worries rarely happen, but it does play on my mind for a short period of time, and often I will find myself saying “no” to something when I would have likely been fine. I don’t think I realised how many things I don’t go to or do because I am aware of what it might do to my body. For example, I’ve not been to my works Christmas party in 2 years and rarely go to any socials with them, social outings with my friends are few-and-far between but I also decline more than accept, and I am no longer the one organising things.
And it’s not because I can’t be bothered – far from it. I’m often chomping at the bit to see my friends or go to other outings, but its the thoughts about how my body might react that stop me.
So, when I got the chance to go out with my friend this weekend, I was more than happy. This was my chance to do something for me, do some shopping (FYI my favourite past-time) and have a good ol’ talk to someone who isn’t living with “Lauren the sick one”. It was something that could easily be cancelled if I wasn’t well and could even be changed to suit how I was feeling. What more could I ask for – I was off out with someone that I consider my best friend and who wouldn’t judge me.
Unfortunately, as you may have seen from following my @endobunny Instagram account, I’ve not had a good week. We’re sure another cyst or Endometrioma-type thing has ruptured and my pain was hard to control. There were doubts in my mind as to whether I would be able to go out, and even on the morning of the outing I was worried – I was worried how all the walking would effect me, the fact that I was having to drive in meant I was unable to take my stronger pain relief, and what was I going to do if I was unwell?
However, all that in mind, something made me get up, get ready and go. I was excited – the prospect of shopping with someone I was close to, the Christmas-feel to the shops and the fact that were unlikely to talk about anything related to my health. I could be the “old Lauren” again. And I loved every second.
Sometimes, forcing yourself to do something can have it’s benefits. Like, if I hadn’t gone out today, not only would I have spent the day on my own (my husband was working), but I wouldn’t have left the house. Whilst the pain is very real, there are psychological elements to chronic pain that can make it worse – sitting in my house all day with very little to do would probably had led to me focusing on it more than normal. I also wouldn’t have caught up with everything that was going on with friends and family, and I wouldn’t have got what I wanted to get done, done.
Sometimes we have to be brave, and even though we are brave throughout all aspects of our health, sometimes the things that are seemingly small need us to be brave too.