As a former early childhood educator, I grew very familiar with the game “Red light, green light.” I can remember the children in my class excitedly running throughout the gymnasium with the sounds of their little tennis shoes squeaking against the floor. The concept of the game is to run as far as you can during the command of “Green light” and to stop suddenly whenever the leader of the game calls out “Red light.” I feel like this is a similar concept with chronic illness. We do as much as we can while we have a “Green light” in our health and come to a screeching halt when our bodies send out a “Red light.”
A “Green light” in chronic illness is different for everyone. For some, it’s a day of manageable pain, for others it’s a day of energy and strength. In my own life, a green light for me is whenever my kidney stones are minimal and I have energy. We all know that pain wears us out. Coupled with the adrenal failure, the pain absolutely drains my energy. I rarely have days where I can stay awake a full twelve hours, but when I do… I feel like super woman! Yesterday was a “Green light” for me. For Christmas, my odd little family (which consists of my parents, brother and two best friends) decided to go sit on the beach to celebrate the holiday. Afterwards, I made homemade chicken and dumplings and we all watched movies. My pain was at a manageable level and I was truly able to enjoy my day.
Unfortunately today is a “Red light” day. Kidney stones and pain kept me up until 4:30am and my adrenals ache from the strain on them. Today my body is demanding a stop signal. But you know what, I am so very thankful I was able to enjoy yesterday! I think the key to surviving the bad days is holding onto the memories of the good ones. My ocean Christmas was wonderful. My chicken and dumplings were enjoyed by the people that I love. I chose to hold onto the good things. I will get through today. The pain may be high but I will see another “Green light” again.
Chronic illness forces us to understand human limits far more than the average healthy person. The constant dance of pushing ourselves and letting ourselves rest is an art AND a science. We have to find the balance of knowing our limits but conquering our weaknesses at the same time.
Let me just encourage you to believe in your own intuition. Only you know your magic ratio! Never let anyone push you past your limits, including yourself. You do not have to be a super hero. The mistake I often make is feeling like I have to prove myself even more because I am ill. This is not the case.
We, as chronic illness warriors fight battles that would make the average healthy person crumble. I often see social media statuses where people have meltdowns over the silliest things and I just think “Wow THAT is your tragedy?” I am not saying play “Experience Olympics” where we compare everything we go through to other people’s normal lives. But I am saying that you should pride yourself on how strong you are to battle your illness every single day. Celebrate your green light days! On your red light days, remind yourself of your accomplishments and do as much self-care as possible.
GREEN LIGHT! Let’s go. RED LIGHT! Let’s rest.
Either way, chronic illness, GAME ON!