My usual pithy reply to this oft-repeated gesture of sympathy is ‘because I have no option’ which is true and generally suffices. After all, no-one wants to be treated to a viva voce dissertation on coping with the slings and arrows of chronic illness.
But I know you want to know, don’t you?
It comes down to just these three approaches:
Maintaining Low Expectations
I don’t go beyond the lowest rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualisation is so last century! I don’t compare or compete. My aim is simply to feel as calm, relaxed and comfortable as possible. If that has an ‘end of life’ vibe about it, that’s just how it is. I’m not ill enough to die (mercifully) but no-one would mistake my existence for living in its truest sense. Anything I manage beyond that is a bonus.
This works. After all, it’s the hope that kills you!
My nervous system involuntarily runs on fast-forward, like an LP played at 45 rpm. It dictates the play for every bit of me. This is exhausting, scary, uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Relaxation comprises being horizontal, breathing consciously and keeping calm. No candlelit baths and floaty music; tried that-far too stimulating.
Repeat this as often, and for as long as required, to achieve relative peace.
Besides the distractions that come with life, there’s a real skill in finding stuff to do, or think about, that is commensurate with one’s current state of craptitude. It can’t involve much level of commitment as unreliability rules. It can’t be too boring as I’m still a sentient being. It shouldn’t be too stimulating or exciting or I pay the consequences. I fall back on audiobooks (shout out to Listening Books, an absolute Godsend of a charity), a bit of telly, spouting drivel on Twitter, and an occasional dive into Duolingo pretending to learn Greek.
And writing this, and communing with my offspring, and supporting Celtic, and looking at my garden and…..
And that’s it. Now you know!