by Peter Waite
Life can get out of balance pretty quickly. When you have a chronic illness, that balance can be even more difficult to maintain. It is one more demand upon our limited time and energy. I know from personal experience, my life is often just a form of controlled chaos. It doesn't help that I'm a recovering Type-A personality! Maintaining balance in life is like driving a car. If you aren't regularly checking your tire pressure, you may end up with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.
So, recently I've decided to check my tire pressure.
I have been married to my wonderful wife for 20 years this June. She is my true love, best friend, partner, confidant, counselor, cheerleader, supporter and advocate. I am truly the luckiest man in the world (well, I'm required to say that... but it's true!). I've blogged before about how important she was in helping me cope after my diagnosis with chronic illness and continues to support me in managing my health. My health has been just one more challenge we've had to learn to deal with. As a husband, I'm okay, but I know there are many things I can improve on. Marriage takes hard work to make it work. It also requires commitment and devotion to one another.
Raising a child can be tough. Raising 4 kids can be even tougher. Being a good father to 4 kids, ages 5 to 13, while coping with chronic illness can be downright exhausting! But it has amazing rewards too. Their love sustains me in so many ways. They know their dad takes medicine and gets tired sometimes, but in their eyes I'm still just "Dad". Still, there are trade-offs I have to make. With a limited amount of energy, I have to allocate it wisely and sometimes forgo one thing for something else. Being a good father means paying attention to the little things, whether it is helping my teenage son with his homework, building a Pinewood Derby car for my youngest son's Cub Scouts, or showing genuine interest in my daughter's day at preschool. I'm a decent father, but I know I can do a lot better. If only I could clone myself!
For most of us, our personal lives are increasingly intertwined with our work lives. We live life at a frenetic pace. We are tethered to our computers or smart phones and it is often difficult to separate ourselves from work. Balancing my work and home life has always been a challenge for me. I have a great job as a manager of an IT team in an industry that I love. There is stress, like any other job, but I usually find it manageable. Still, it's hard not to bring work home.
Aside from family, my faith is one of the most important priorities in my life. It gives my life meaning and purpose. Prayer and spirituality offers hope and optimism in ways nothing else can. Being active in my church gives me an opportunity to worship God and build relationships with others seeking to live better lives. For the last 3 years, I've served as a counselor to the lay minister of our congregation of 300 plus members. It's been one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done in my life.
Managing your health is very important, even more so with chronic illness. It can be a full-time job keeping track of doctor appointments, filling prescriptions, and learning about and managing symptoms and treatments. As I blogged the other day, not much about Crohn's Disease and the arthritis that follows it surprises me anymore, except getting sick with the usual seasonal bugs. Oh, and weekends. I get out of my routine on weekends with errands to run, kids to drive, family to visit, and all the other activities we do. It's easy to forget to do the things I know I should to stay healthy. Most flares start on weekends for me. It's just a fact.
As many of you already know, my passion is HealingWell. I built this site 15 years ago and it has grown beyond anything I ever imagined. It takes a lot of work to keep a site of nearly 100,000 members running smoothly. I often work late hours answering emails, helping forum members, fixing software bugs, and now.... blogging. I must be nuts!!! But like for many of you, HealingWell has been a key ingredient in my own personal healing and resilience.
Something's Gotta Give
Okay, so maybe my tire pressure is a little low. I know that I can't do it all. I wish I could. It's sometimes difficult for me to accept. In each of the areas above, I fall short in some way. Something's gotta give to balance all the competing demands on my time and energy. To achieve harmony and balance in life, I need to continually "check my tire pressure" and make adjustments where needed. Maybe I'll go for a nice, long nature walk with my wife tonight? Hey, it's a start!
How do you maintain balance in your life with chronic illness? I'd really like to know.
Peter Waite, M.S., M.A. is founder and CEO of HealingWell.com, and holds graduate degrees from Utah State University and Brandeis University. Founded in 1997, HealingWell.com is the foremost support community on diseases, conditions, and chronic illness. HealingWell.com has been featured by BBC Online, USA Today, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Industry Standard, Reader's Digest, PBS.org, Forbes.com, and USA Weekend Magazine. HealingWell.com has also been the recipient of numerous health industry awards. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and four children.