The last time I made a New Year’s resolution, it was to shear a sheep before the end of 2007, just for the joy of the experience. But I managed to get married, buy a home, and get a graduate degree between then and 2015, and I still don’t know the satisfaction of peeling off a chunk of wool like a label from a bottle. So, resolutions aren’t the way to go for me.
But I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish this year. Job-related goals, vacations, running in another 5k. Or even winning a 5k, maybe, and a much higher salary with 5 weeks of vacation …
But I also have IBD. Which can get in the way of these lofty goals. So this leads to even more lofty goals about my health, to be achieved before I can get to my “real” (and much more fun) non-health-related career and personal goals. So, as someone who is both very driven and sometimes very sick, I am trying to strike a balance in 2015 between enthusiastic ambition and patient acceptance. Which means I’m struggling with the following areas:
Get more treatment if you need to. It’s ironic that these things you’re supposed to do to make yourself feel better (going to the ER, or taking a new medication) can also make you feel like a sicker person. Denying signs of an illness flare or that you shouldn’t pull all-nighters can help you feel “normal” and “like everyone else” in the short term, but the physical toll catches up with you and then you’re actually sicker. I make sure to learn this the hard way several times each year.
A hybrid of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech and the Serenity Prayer, with no 2016 expiration date.
Flexible deadlines only. I tend to be a harsh taskmaster with myself about deadlines, even ones that obviously don’t matter. (It took me a year of grad school to finally become OK with asking for minor assignment extensions. Big surprise: My professors were fine with it. I also made a tear-drenched decision to defer grad school for a year to have major surgery; also fine.) Take an extra day or week or year to do something, if that makes sense for your situation.
Don’t delay living your “real” life because you’re sick. Although you may always have IBD, that doesn’t mean it has to dictate every decision you make. I try to remember that I work on getting well so I can keep doing (or go back to doing, or start doing) the things that are most important to me.
Your health and the rest of your life can coexist as works in progress, even if you’re in the hospital and can’t do more than pin to your “New career ideas” secret Pinterest board. Acceptance of what is happening with your health does not mean giving up on trying to be healthier, or giving up on your other goals. It may mean that the path to your goals is more winding than other people’s paths (they probably needed less sleep and didn’t worry as much about health insurance).
So that’s what I’ll be going for, starting in February (to avoid the New Year’s jinx). A hybrid of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech and the Serenity Prayer, with no 2016 expiration date. But if someone offers up a fluffy lamb in need of a shave in 2015, odds are I’ll clear my schedule.
Author Katie McLendon is a CCFA support group facilitator in Atlanta who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2005. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with a Master of Public Health degree from Emory University, and works as an editor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Follow Katie on Twitter: @katiefmclendon
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