Lupus Lessons

*Make a "To Do" List
Make a list of the things that Lupus is keeping you from doing, including everything that you want to be able to do, say and feel once you get Lupus under control. Jot down everything you’re thinking, no matter how crazy it might sound. Be as open and honest with yourself as possible. Don’t be shy or reluctant about listing things of little consequence or things that you’ve never admitted hurt to have lost. Now is your chance to uncover what it is that you miss the most about life right now. It’s your opportunity to grieve for yourself, while laying the ground work for a hopeful future. Just this once, don't hold back in mourning your old self and abilities. Reassure yourself that it's normal to be sad about it and okay to admit it. In drafting your list, allow yourself to come to terms with the resentment and frustration you’ve been harboring, mostly against yourself. Only when you allow the emotionally protective walls you’ve spent years constructing fall to the ground, can you begin to take steps toward healing. And only then can the rebuilding begin.

*Control the Role
Imagine your life as one big theatrical performance (not too difficult, right?) You are, of course, the star of the show, and those close to you will be playing the requisite supporting roles. Now assign Lupus a role in the production – that of stagehand. Lupus’ job is to be as inconspicuous as possible: to stay behind the scenes, disrupt nothing, and if movement is necessary, attempt to blend in with the scenery. You give this very special, important role to your disease, not because you necessarily want it around, but because you know it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Acknowledging that it’s a part of the play, and giving it a job to handle will hopefully keep it busy and out of your way, allowing you to give your best all-time performance.

As you act out the scenes in your life, ask yourself the following: is what I’m about to do going to allow Lupus to upstage me? Will my disease, who’s supposed to be waiting idly behind stage, have an opportunity to run across stage, leaping and bounding and causing a scene? For example, if you work extra late, or refuse to go to the doctor, will you be encouraging Lupus to crash the scene? Keep these things in mind as you go about your daily performances and allow yourself to be the center-stager you’re meant to be!

*It is Not Your Fault

Pick three areas of your life that have decidedly changed since you were diagnosed with Lupus. You can probably think of dozens of examples, but right now, I want you to focus on just three. Perhaps it’s your ability to walk your dog, have patience with your spouse, and your ability to take on extra projects at work. Whatever three things you feel in your life have been compromised by Lupus, write them down. Now, beside each of them, write, “It’s not my fault.” Realize that you aren’t to blame for these alterations in lifestyle. They are either the direct or indirect result of being diagnosed with Lupus, and you weren’t in control of getting Lupus. You didn’t choose it; it just happened.

By no means does this excuse you from taking responsibility for your actions and dealing with the fact that you have an illness. But what it does mean is that you can no longer blame yourself or feel bad about “letting” these changes occur. Lupus, in addition to being chronic, inflammatory, systemic, and debilitating, is also life-altering. Acknowledging that life is going to be different with Lupus will allow you to stop blaming yourself for your limitations (most of which are out of your control anyway), and start dealing with the disease the best you can.

*Prepare to Understand
Most of the people around you don’t have Lupus, and hopefully, they never will. Because they’ll never experience the full-fledged symptoms of Lupus, they will never fully comprehend what it’s like to have the disease. The more you attempt to explain it, the more frustration you may cause yourself. Without a point of reference, your descriptions are lost. Even attempting to relate the mental and physical anguish you encounter may be futile. While your female friends may have experienced swollen fingers during pregnancy, or your athletic friends may identify with joint pain or exhaustion, they can never fully grasp the enormity of having a disease in which, a) symptoms like these aren’t usually attributed to one particular experience, and b) these ailments may never cease to exist. You could spend a lifetime trying to convey the nature and severity of your pain and suffering in contrast to the symptoms they’ve experienced, but why waste the time? Instead of straining to be understood, strive to understand the limited perspective of those around you, and learn to accept the constraints they have of understanding you and your disease. Once you allow for the fact that those around you can’t be expected to know any better, maybe you won’t not feel compelled to defend yourself or correct their misconceptions at every turn. People around you are always going to try and identify with your situation. How well you learn to accept and view those attempts will improve your relationships and make communicating about Lupus that much easier.

*Dump the Day
A friend of mine came up with relaxing, meditative routine, fondly referred to as “Dump the Day.” During the worst of my days with Lupus, I performed it religiously each evening. Now, I call upon it from time to time when I’m in special need of relief or renewal. Here’s how it goes:Step 1: Before you retire for the night, find a comfortable spot in your favorite chair or on your bed where you can sit for 5 or 10 minutes without disruption.Step 2: Sit quietly with your eyes closed, letting the thoughts of the day swirl in your head. The most troublesome highlights of the day may surface more quickly, but allow all the events of the past 12-24 hours to come into your mind.Step 3: Slowly, let those thoughts, troubles, and anxieties slowly trickle away, “dumping” them out of your mind.Step 4: Continue until all the worries of the day have been eliminated from your mind, even if only semi-permanently. At least it will be long enough for your mind, body and spirit to experience relief and for you to get some much needed rest.

*Eliminate Should from your Vocabulary
Every time you think about something that should happen or that you must do, rethink it for a moment. Does it really have to happen, or do you just want it to? I agree many things on your plate have to get done, but I’d be willing to bet the list that you deem obligatory could be cut in half if you take a good, hard look at your “shoulds.” Instead of wasting time running that one last errand that could wait until tomorrow, choose to do something that will make you feel good about yourself. Stop for a relaxing cup of coffee, find a quiet spot to browse through a book or magazine, or just take a moment to breathe. Taking care of yourself is the first step to living well with Lupus!


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