Series: Lupus in a Victimless Life
This is the second discussion in a series about being a Lupus patient or someone with any chronic illness, without becoming a victim. Society tells us we are victims of the things that make life difficult, but do we really need to see ourselves that way? No, not even for a minute!
Having Lupus should not mean being victim or powerless against it. Although we cannot choose whether we have Lupus, determining not to be its victim is matter of mindset and even a choice. When special events or activities in our life disrupt our normal routines and schedules, it becomes very important to be on guard for signs of physical or other stress. Stress or fatigue may signal increased risk of bringing on a flare of lupus symptoms.
A recent trip to attend a business conference was an excellent example of this type of self-management that often minimizes the impact of potential lupus flares. Recently joining about 1,000 peers from all over the nation at an educational conference in Washington, D.C., we gathered at a large resort on the Potomac River for five days of classes and continuing legal management education. With breakfast starting very early, and classes going all day long, by sunset, everyone was tired. There were many extra steps going to and fro from class to class, and every situation and conversation was a new experience. This type of event interacting with countless people and ideas easily causes both physical and emotional fatigue. This conference was no exception.
Selecting how to best spend the free time in the evenings included a wide array of choices, from dining with old and new found friends to taking shopping trips, going on walks, taking in local entertainment. The conservative choice was spending the night quietly in a hotel room reading a book or eating a takeout meal, while resting with feet propped on a pillow. Predictably, most evenings were spent pursuing a sedentary evening that helped prevent over-exertion, while also promoting restoration necessary before the next day’s demanding schedule. Wisdom is listening to the physical needs of your body, and recognizing without angst that lupus narrows those limits. It seemed the best idea was the wise one.
But, of course, a little fun, within physical limits was necessary! One night, opting to accept the invitation to take a sunset walk with attendees from our local chapter sounded fun! Midway through our jaunt, it suddenly seemed best to sit and rest midway while the others in our group explored shops at the bottom of a long, long flight of steps heading down toward the shore. At complete peace with self and lupus limitations, skipping the stairs was an instant no-brainer. Besides, it was a great opportunity to do some great people-watching. When everyone else reached the top of the stairway again and reunited our group, we finished the second half of our twilight stroll through the remaining street level shops near our hotel. The activity was pleasantly enough, without being too much.
Despite the Limitations of Lupus
The onset of Lupus clearly changes a person’s life, sometimes very dramatically. Whether their presenting symptoms are arthritis, rashes, or perhaps a more serious aspect of Lupus, their life definitely changes. Often, many lupus patients experience fatigue, pain, and other symptoms long before they ever receive the diagnosis.
After learning that Lupus is the cause of their medical problems, a person often has a great sense of relief, as well as hope that things will improve. The average patient experiences Lupus symptoms four to six years and sees up to the same number of doctors before getting a clear diagnosis of Lupus. Many describe the great sense of relief they feel after finally getting a one word diagnosis to describe their collection of multiple medical symptoms.
With the diagnosis comes the welcome change of a decisive treatment plan and prescriptions for well-established treatments to help control the lupus. Often the counsel from doctors and other knowledgeable counselors encourage changes in lifestyle and attentiveness to recognizing physical limitations. Each lupus patient has their own unique set of symptoms and circumstances influencing their quality of life, despite lupus. In the same patient, flares of their Lupus may suddenly narrow those limitations and frustrate their life goals and plans.
Over work or inadequate rest can quickly bring on extreme fatigue and lupus flare, so it is critical to learn to perceive physical, psychological, and spiritual signs of weariness, and then to take quick actions to retract the limits temporarily to quash or prevent an oncoming flare of lupus. For many patients, the onset of extreme fatigue is the first symptom as a flare is starting, so becoming intentional about managing social commitments and activity in balance with physical stamina can go a long, long way to minimizing the length and severity of flares, when they do occur (and they will!).
Living within the limits of Lupus may involve a strict regimen of medications, laboratory tests, and medical appointments, along with costs that that restrict a household budget. Moderate physical exercise can help increase the physical limitations by encouraging good circulation and promoting tissue health and repair. Adequate sleep becomes invaluable in fighting many of the affects of lupus, and can diminish some of the morning mental clouding that many patients experience daily. Communicating with the rheumatologist becomes very important if arthritis or neuropathy pain disrupts sleep, and being willing to ask for and take pain medications can be essential to fighting the negative effects of lupus.
All in all, we can choose to make the most of what we have, despite lupus, and accept that lupus may make our life and limitations different than others. Take a the time to you need to slow down, without letting this need frustrate you. In the stillness of those quieter moments, focus on the blessings around you, and determine to embrace your limitations rather than becoming a victim of them. Perhaps consider these thoughts penned by Paul of Tarsus, who also had a life-long chronic illness but embraced the ideas that his weaknesses and limitations were a blessing. He wished his illness would go away, but he was no victim!
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, KJV