It’s been a while, and I apologize (once again) for my inconsistencies in posting. I know I’ve been doing that a lot lately, but life has been hectic and with so much going on, the blog has unfortunately fallen by the wayside. I am embarrassed by all these “apology” posts and will be trying harder to post more regularly, because even though I’m not posting, lymphedema is always at the forefront of my mind. So please bear with me as I get things back on track! I love all of you so much and am so grateful for your readership and emails – and most of all, your patience! You guys rock!
Anyway – onto the post:
These past couple weeks I’ve been corresponding with a fellow lymphie who reached out to me because he’s been struggling with his lymphedema. This lymphie – we’ll call him Charlie for the sake of privacy – was concerned. His lymphedema, although mild, has the potential to spread to his “good leg,” and he’s worried that it will happen soon: “Sometimes I feel like I am facing a ticking clock, ticking down the number of days in which I can live a semi-normal life, or at least appear to do so to the outside world.” Charlie’s anxieties have been getting worse as he prepares for some big life changes, and he’s afraid of moving forward only to be set back if his lymphedema worsens and ultimately disables him.
I can’t say that I blame him – I’ve had these fears run through my head before, too. I’ve been lucky in that my swelling is mild compared to others, but that doesn’t minimize my fears of it someday worsening or spreading to other parts of my body. I could totally relate to his analogy of facing a ticking clock, because having lymphedema is a lot like facing the unknown. It’s hard to predict how it will change and when, if at all, and the not knowing can be maddening sometimes.
I told Charlie that the best advice I could offer is to stay in the moment and take care of his body each day. Nobody can see the future, so there’s no point in stressing about it as long as we do our best every day to take care of ourselves and maintain our lymphedema, our minds, and our emotional health. When living with a chronic medical condition, it’s totally natural to have these fears and insecurities, but it doesn’t have to control us.
Here are some tips that I use to bring myself back to earth when my anxieties start to get the best of me:
- Acceptance. This is a tough one, but acceptance is key. Whether it’s accepting my lymphedema or a current situation I’m in, it’s important for me to reach that point and find peace in that whatever is going on is meant to be and it’s best to just go with the flow rather than fight it.
- Acknowledge my feelings. This goes along with acceptance. Sometimes I just need to acknowledge either to myself or to a trusted support person what I’m feeling – it helps validate the feelings without giving them power to control me.
- Practice self-care. What is it that I need right now? When it comes to my lymphedema, if I feel things aren’t comfortable or right, I take the steps I need to take care of myself: elevate my leg, practice manual lymphatic drainage, move around to get circulation going. And sometimes, self-care means taking the time to paint my nails or do my hair, because when I do these little things, I feel special and a lot better than I was feeling before.
- Positive self talk. I talk to myself a lot. When I’m feeling anxious or upset, I talk myself down (sometimes out loud if I’m alone). I acknowledge the situation and my feelings, and then reassure myself that these things are not permanent and that whatever I’m experiencing will pass. I also take the time to put things into perspective for myself, because sometimes I need to state the obvious to get myself out of a weird headspace.
- Be still. This is a little like practicing self-care, but I thought it could use its own bullet point. Taking the time to be still with myself does wonders for my sanity. It’s a little difficult at first – especially if your brain is buzzing with anxious thoughts – but once you get into the practice of doing it, you’ll be making it a part of your daily routine. I like to do it when I’m brushing my teeth or laying in bed getting ready to fall asleep, but sometimes I have to take a few minutes out of my day to step back and breathe.
What are some ways you come to terms with facing the “ticking clock”? Do you feel like you’re facing a clock at all? How do you practice acceptance when living with lymphedema?