I’ve tried to not be one to take for granted that I’ll be able-bodied forever. Disability and chronic illness can pop up at any time in a person’s life. In fact, as we get older, odds are good that our bodies and brains will decreasingly be able to adapt to what the rest of the world requires of us.
I’ve had decades of practice with the crazy, and I’ve learned how to just keep going through it, how to stop for help when I need it, or at the very least stay as far ahead of it as I can (because you can totally outrun the crazy, if you’re fast enough).
This is fairly new, though: My body is betraying me. I have some as-yet-unlabeled health problems that sporadically flare up and leave me very weak and in a decent amount of pain. I’ve been told that stress is probably triggering it, so I need to reduce my stress.
Now, I don’t mean to sound dismissive (except we all know when people say “I don’t mean to,” they kinda do mean it), but how helpful is it to tell a single parent with two kids with special needs who lives alone with said kids and works all the time because she has no other viable options that the pain and weakness and associated mental health stuff that actually render her non-functional regularly enough to be a giant pain in the ass can all be solved by reducing the stresses in her life?
(need to take a breath after that sentence. whew.)
I get that stress has a huge impact on physiology and mental health. I get that having less stress might make these flares of mine reduce significantly in number or even disappear entirely. I get it. But what the hell am I supposed to do to make my life less stressful?
I can force my way through just about anything that’s been thrown at me so far. As long as I am capable of still moving my body, I can do the stuff I absolutely have to. Days like today, when I don’t think there’s a single square centimetre of me that doesn’t hurt in some way, I worry that might not always be the case. I found myself wondering, as I walked very slowly to the bus stop to pick up my kids, how long before I need a cane to do this during a flare? What if I hit a day where I really just CANNOT call up enough strength to walk unassisted, or write all day for work, or change my son’s lightbulb, or actively parent my kids?
If it gets so bad I can not work in a conventional full-time employment situation, what then? If I can’t manage stairs in the house for which I can no longer afford to pay rent with the loss of that income?
I have a ridiculous amount of life insurance. If I die while the kids are young, their financial needs will be covered. But this? This waiting to see what happens next, whether the next flare will be the one that says, “Sorry, you don’t get to get up today. Kids and work be damned, we’re taking over,” this terrifying unknown?
Probably not reducing my stress to think about.