Monday, August 22, 2011

Lupus lesson: making "the best ever" stick

I admit that I'm a frequent user of the hyperbole - the phrase "the best ever" has been part of my repertoire for a very long time. In fact, I heard Deirdre saying it just the other day. That shows you how often it comes up in conversation among the Gorman girls. (And yes - Deirdre and I agree that our recent trip to England really was "the best ever.")

But the idea of feeling "the best ever" came up at my most recent talk in Cambridge - though it's not the first time I've heard about it. When I hear from other lupites what scenario makes them feel the "best", I get a ton of responses: some feel great on vacation, others feel great staying home. For others, it's after a weekend of napping, an afternoon of walking, or following a massage, a hot bath, or both. Maybe your "best ever" comes after an emotional catharsis or an alleviation of responsibility. Whatever it is, have you ever thought of making note of that great, lupus-free moment, and then attempting to recreate that scenario so that you can feel "the best ever" more often?

I used to think that I felt "the best" after about 4 days into a week long vacation. By that time, I would have had time to recover from the stress and/or fatigue of traveling, the stress of my job, and the general worries of leaving home with errands/task/duties unfinished. By day 4, I was feeling pretty good and I'd forgotten about most of that stuff. That was, of course, until day 5 hit...and I realized that my vacation was coming to an end, the stress and fatigue of traveling was right around the corner, and my job and everything that went with it was waiting for me. That was enough to undo all of the good that the vacation was supposed to do in the first place.

Of course, this happens to most of us - with or without lupus. But the question that I wanted to answer was this - in the course of my normal life with lupus, how could I make every day feel like day 4 of vacation? Sure, doing away with a full-time, 10-hour a day job was a step in the right direction...but that wasn't the only thing that was stressing me out or causing me to flare. The fact was that even outside of my work, I was constantly on the go. And before a vacation, I was the worst. I was always running around, trying to squeeze in every last errand before leaving. I would clean the house and do all of the laundry the day before, and I would pack the morning I left. And the moment I stepped off of the plane after vacation? I would hit the ground running - pushing myself to pick up right where I left off. No pacing, no easing back in. Just full speed ahead.

Was I allowing my vacation (or even one measly day of it - day 4) to do any good? Was I doing everything I could to manage my disease? Not really. Even on the smallest scale, what could I do to make the rest of my days as worry-free as day 4?

I decided to start with day 3, 2 and 1 of vacation. But to do that, of course, I had to start with day 1, 2 and 3 BEFORE vacation. I'd have to pace myself for days before leaving. I couldn't leave everything until the last moment, and most of the time, I'd have to forgo a slew of errands/tasks/to-do's before leaving so that I was in good shape the day I left. I'm telling you - it worked wonders...and it continues to work today.

So here's to finding your own personal "best ever" and making it last...at least until day 4.

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