The Phoenix Zine

The Spaces of My Life


New Years is a time when people often consider where they’ve been, where they’re going, and all of the things they would like to change about themselves.

I confess, I am no different.  Although I rarely come up with a real resolution I can follow that will change my life, I am all about the reflection accompanying the ending of the old year and the beginning of a new one.

This past year I’ve been working on finding more effective ways to manage my illness; keeping track of my medical appointments, realising when I need to call and pick up my prescriptions and having on hand when I need it the various tidbits of my health information doctors always want to know about.

Working through this problem initially made it seem even worse.  Chronic illness is a time consuming constant – even when I have a less illness intensive day (meaning a day with no blood work, doctor appointments or symptoms of heart failure), I’m still left worrying about what the future will bring.  When I sat down and tried to make a list of all the information I needed to keep track off to manage my illness, it was completely overwhelming.

What brought me down from my anxious, overwhelmed state was working on my calendar.  First I filled in all of the appointments I have to keep.  Next came chores I am required to do at home.  And when I finished writing in those demands on my time, I realised my calendar still had a lot of white space. Blank space. In other words, free time.

At least, my month started out with a lot of blank space.  At the end of the month however, I found I had something scheduled for practically every day.

It’s easy for me to blame my illness for taking over my life, but I’m not helping.  I schedule myself with many events and then wonder why I feel so tired and run down.  And because I’m packed so tight, I don’t have the energy to do things I really want to do.

I wonder how I let my life get so filled up, except it isn’t a big mystery.  When I’m busy, I’m not thinking about my life.  I’m not thinking about the fear I feel when I go to the doctor.  I’m not wondering about how long it will take my illness to progress.  However, when I put off thinking about those things, when I do finally have a moment to myself I find I have little energy to do anything more complicated than playing solitaire or mindsweeper.

Being busy is an avoidance tactic, and one I use frequently in my life.  The truth is I need the spaces to be able to deal with my life.  The spaces are for me to do what makes me me.  Doing things like reading, writing, painting, or just being creative; helps me to centre myself and sort things out.  If I don’t take the time to do those things, then I get stuck in avoidance mode and end up feeling like my life is overcome by illness.

My life is affected by illness, but it doesn’t have to be overcome.  That’s my choice.  And seeing as it is a new year, maybe it’s time for me to start making new choices.

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