So much of the self-help genre coaches the weary traveler in achieving a blissful and balanced lifestyle. When I was an occupational therapist working in psychiatric hospitals, I would often lead a patient group in a goal-setting exercise entitled, “Achieving a Balanced Lifestyle.” It was always my favorite therapeutic activity to do.
Each patient received a worksheet with the title at the top followed by two large circles, one at the top of the page and one at the bottom. Both circles were divided into the same 5 sections labeled: Physical, Emotional, Social, Intellectual, and Spiritual. The exercise began with the group members filling in each section of the top circle with activities that fulfilled that particular need. For example, Social might include visiting friends and Spiritual might include Bible study. Often patients struggling with mood disorders had very little in the emotional and social areas. Persons with depression had very little on the page at all.
The lower circle was for goal-setting. My hope was to help the individual begin to see beyond the crisis that led them to the hospital and think about what he or she might do during the day to use time effectively as a coping strategy. I only asked for one activity in each of the sections. Of course we had already brainstormed a list of activities as a group and these were written on a large white board at the front of the room. Eventually each person had a plan and something to share with the rest of the group. Since so many things are discussed in a person’s life during a short hospital stay, I asked each person at the end of the session to name just one activity as a starting point. Virtually everyone was able to identify something, a place to begin.
Geez, if I were to complete my own plan for achieving a balanced lifestyle, I wonder where I would begin? Let’s see, I’d have one worksheet for a sick morning and one for a stable afternoon. Then there would be another for when I’m most likely to be functional in the middle of the night and another during IV magnesium treatments at the hospital three times per week. I might be tempted to tear the page in half and add various goal-setting scenarios based upon my feelings at any given moment. IN OTHER WORDS, setting goals sometimes just doesn’t work! My best intentions are often met with a 180 degree turn of events. This requires me to live in the moment on a moment-by-moment basis!
Last night was a crazy example of this. At 9:00 p.m. I was with my husband sitting around a campfire outside at our friend’s house roasting hotdogs over the fire. Within the hour we all were wielding shovels and pitch forks emptying the bed of my back truck of yard waste into a ditch on his property. But within another hour I was writhing on a bed seizing with convulsions, unable to speak or move very much at all! The next hour was filled with my husband providing virtually all of the physical care needed to transport me to the bathroom, wash away the sooty residue from my hair and tender frame, and bring nourishment for me to eat huddled under the covers in bed. Sigh. So what was my goal by the end of the night? Get up to use the toilet with my own strength. Check. Goal achieved for the Physical section of my paper-and-pencil exercise in my mind.
Almost every day is like this. Yes, I’ve had 3 days with no seizure episodes in the past 3 weeks and there are about a half a dozen fewer episodes per week overall. I guess if I could stay in my safe home bubble, I might be able to knock down a few more. Yet after 2 years of illness I tend to forget and “go for it” when I feel stable, trying to get out of the house to do something meaningful not realizing that the setback pushes me back to “Ground Zero” of the recovery process. The goal is to not react at all. Each reaction re-sets my immune system at some arbitrary level, sensitizing me to be more vulnerable to the next exposure. I may be able to anticipate that exposure and I may not. Sometimes the cause is hidden. When our friend placed a log covered with some type of blue fungus on the fire, I had a feeling something bad could happen at some point . . . but we were having fun . . .
Such is life in the world of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome when you have a genetic disposition that is vulnerable to mold illness. I have no idea anymore where the Lyme disease fits into the matrix of illness. Right now the focus is on the mold illness. And today the focus was on recovery. Then this evening I got a do-it-sick burst of energy and spent 3 hours washing the composted dirt out of my truck! Later I made dinner, kale chips (yes & they are pretty weird actually), and a lamb/turkey meatloaf for tomorrow. I’m sitting here sore, pleasantly fatigued, and sensing a pre-tic syndrome rising up from within. And so it goes from one extreme to another once again.
Perhaps a better exercise than filling out a worksheet would be to meditate on some Words of wisdom:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 5)
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)