Managing a social life: Trying to find that “balance”
One of the hardest things about having a chronic condition like a Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder is trying to find a balance between resting when your body tells you it needs to and living a life that isn’t ruled by your illness. As a young adult, it can be difficult not to envy the way others can live their lives; some manage to study full time, work part-time and have a regular social life too! How do they cope?! – sometimes I wonder.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not “doing life” as well as others are, just because you’ve had to limit your commitments to look after yourself and avoid flare-ups. The fact of the matter is that everyone “does life” differently, and although your life may not look the same as the lives of those who turn up in your newsfeed, it doesn’t make it any less purposeful.
I’ve found in my personal experience that it is virtually impossible to find a perfect balance between life commitments/enjoyments and rest. And I don’t say this to discourage, I mean it as an encouragement. If you don’t feel like you’ve got all your ducks lined up perfectly and your life in complete harmony, it’s ok! No one has. The best anyone can do is take each situation as it comes, assess its timing, priority and if your body is up to it, before making the decision.
Sometimes I find myself at a crossroads; either to attend a social gathering after a full day and be exhausted for days after OR rest, and risk missing out on a great night. Life is for living, and I am of the feeling that it is ok to enjoy some social time now and then EVEN if you know you’re going to feel not-so-great afterwards. Sometimes, it’s worth it.
In saying that, sometimes, it’s not worth it. That’s why timing is everything. I will often ask myself,
- Is it possible for me to have a rest day/rest days after this event?
- Do I have any important commitments following the event?
If the answer is no to these questions, and my body (mostly) approves, I will likely attend.
Social isolation is an enemy to someone with a chronic illness. It can leave you feeling lonely and like you’re missing out on what life has to offer. Although people around us seem to have bucket-loads of friends, I believe someone with a chronic illness only needs a couple of close friends who genuinely care about them. All those other people? Well, they’re just for fun every now and then. We all have an “emotion tank”, and for someone with a chronic illness, that emotional tank is already low. Lots of friends will drain the tank dry. A smaller group of friends who truly understand and care, means that our emotional tank can be filled, and not completely drained.
So before you make a decision about going out, consider these three things:1. Is my body up to it? 2. Can I rest afterwards (for a day or so), if I need to? 3. Will my friends fill or drain my emotional tank?
If the answer is yes, then go for it; there is nothing worse than feeling like you’re missing out on life. In saying this, rest is important too. Just as crucial as socialising. So the key is this – quality over quantity. Don’t seek to be as socially active as others, but instead choose where to use your limited energy carefully. And by doing this, you can get as close as possible to the impossible goal of a perfectly “balanced life.”