11582865-hospital-patient-with-a-dropper-vector-illustrationOfficially, my school closed for a one-week autumn holiday, but ironically I don’t need time away from my students; the only break I need is from my body. If you battle chronic illness, you are never ever really on vacation.

For the past decades, I have suffered from an invisible illness. The name doesn’t matter, nor do the symptoms, although it frustrates the heck out me to be unable to identify it clearly. Suffice to say that just when I think I have beat the odds, it comes back to bite me in the butt, knock the wind out of my sails, slay me to the ground and wipe out hope.

Those suffering from chronic illness call it a flare up; those fighting cancer say they are no longer in remission.

I am not alone. I am one of the millions of patients that seek solutions to complaints of nondescript symptoms – headaches, pain, fatigue – that drive doctors mad.

How do you find treatment for “invisible” diseases when the evidence-based science of medicine wants proof? My bacteria, the clever little buggers, change forms to evade the very antibiotics geared to kill them.

When I am down for the count, I think of others who are fighting their own battles with cancer, leukemia, MS, diabetes, neuropathy, lupus, arthritis, crohns…the list is endless. Like my immunologist once told me, “Eventually humans lose the battle. Either the cancer cells take over or the body turns on itself in an auto immune illness.”

Next time you are knocked out, here are a dozen tips to help you cope.

  1. Call a sister or a sistah friend; women know how to listen and validate one another’s feelings.DSCN2359_copy
  2. Walk. Even on my worst days, I try to get up and meander even if only to the end of the block. Then at the end of the day when I seemed to have done nothing more than drag from the recliner to the couch, I remind myself that at least I walked today.
  3. Do NOT compare yourself to others in your friendship circle, work sphere, family network. They do not carry your burden. Only you know what an accomplishment it is to put one foot forward day after day.
  4. Listen to music, strum a guitar, sing a lullaby.
  5. Pray or meditate. Get down on your hands and knees in child pose which BTW is also a good stretching position.
  6. Watch a movie.
  7. If your eyes can focus read a funny book, an intriguing mystery, a trashy love story, anything that helps you escape your own four walls.
  8. Eat healthy. Avoid sugar. Bacteria feeds on sugar.
  9. Hit pillows. Kick walls. Break plates. You have the right to be angry. Get it out, but don’t let the anger win.
  10. Cry. Hard. Wail. Tears cleanse the soul.
  11. Let that special someone hold you.
  12. Then cut yourself some slack. Give into the pain and fatigue. Throw away the to do list. Turn off. Tune out. Rest. Rest some more.

Remember LIFE isn’t a race, it is a journey. Your contribution to society is no less valuable because you take longer to finish a task.IMG_4119_copy

How do you cope when your body lets you down again?