When it comes to dealing with a chronic illness, forethought and practicality come in handy. If I don’t take into account things like the shoes I’m wearing, what foods I’m eating and how much I’m resting, I don’t have the energy to do what I want and I know I’m not taking care of myself the way I should be.
As a result, and perhaps for other reasons as well, I think a lot. I consider what I’ve recently read, I analyze my relationships, I assess my decisions, I monitor my finances, I worry about my health and I ponder my future. And sometimes I’m so much in my head I wish I could just turn off my brain.
One of the things my experiences have taught me is life is serious. While on the surface I appear easy going and carefree, I am a person whose thoughts and many anxieties spark insomnia and panic attacks. I know children get sick and die, and that life itself is not something you can take for granted because if you don’t take care of yourself, you may not have it anymore. I know the belief bad things only happen to bad people is false, because sometimes even if you do everything right, you can still get sick or be in an accident.
Thoughts and fears cloud my mind to the point where I need to get out my head. During those times I’ve wondered what it would be like to smoke or drink or do drugs (the illegal kind, not my prescribed medications), because I’ve read at first the use of such vices can provide a release from the stress of life. However, being so aware of the fragility of life, I haven’t been able to bring myself to do something I know would harm my body.
Still, I had to find something to help me cope. I needed something able to bring me down from a panic attack, and something able to calm me enough to sleep. And my answer? Frivolity.
Now, before you ask, “Are you sure you didn’t try the drugs?” let me explain. When so much of your life is made up of life and death situations and fears, everything else seems superfluous. Worrying about what you’re wearing, whether somebody likes you, or what to do with your life once you finish high school can seem frivolous in comparison to worrying about making it up two flights of stairs, when you’re going to need a heart transplant and whether or not you have muscle damage.
But it is the frivolous that makes my life worth living. Even though I feel like I’m being superficial, thinking and talking about how to spend my tax refund brought me down from a panic attack I had one night on the phone with my sister. Likewise, shopping with my girlfriends to find the perfect outfit for an upcoming date took my mind off the heparin shots coming up at the end of the month.
Frivolity links me to real life, reminds me I’m still here, and the fact that life doesn’t always have to be so serious. And while I fear being labelled as frivolous myself, concentrating on the moment, worrying about what to get someone for their birthday, and talking about the best young adult books with my friend helps me relax and gives me a break so when I need to get in my head and deal with the tough stuff, I can.