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Living with a chronic condition

Trying to parent when you're not feeling 100%.

As I age, I can say with confidence that everyone experiences challenges in their lifetime. Whether it be loss, relationship conflicts, traumatic events, financial stress, or health issues.

In my early twenties I began experiencing GI distress. I didn't know what it was then and still don't have the answers I need to consistently feel better. Since it's not life-threatening, my symptoms are not taken very seriously by gastroenterologists. I've taken commonly prescribed medications, tried different diets and various supplements - nothing seems to help. And while I'm grateful my issues are seemingly benign when compared to other illnesses like cancer, it still affects my overall quality of life.

Now that I'm in my forties it feels like I get flare ups, meaning my symptoms rage for several days and are accompanied by fatigue, brain fog and other fun symptoms like that. I've been told I might have an autoimmune disease, but getting a conclusive diagnosis is extremely hard. So that's where I'm at. I wake up not knowing if it'll be a pain-free day or if I will have to trudge through the next 16 hours feeling like garbage. When I was single and living alone, it was annoying, but I could lay down when I needed to. Nowadays, I have children to look after, a demanding job and other responsibilities so I cannot simply drop everything to rest. Don't get me wrong, I would never choose to go back in time. My life is now full of love and happy chaos, I just wish I could enjoy it more often without feeling sick.

I'm sure you're not reading this to listen to me complain about my health issues, but rather how to cope if you too struggle. I find my biggest challenge is practicing patience with my boys when I'm not feeling 100%. This is what I have learned can help:

  • Be honest with your kids by telling them you're not feeling great and let them know when you're starting to feel frustrated. Much better to tell them upfront what's going on than to snap and upset them when they don't know the real reason why.

  • Lean on your partner to take over parenting duties while you go take a break.

  • Enlist your kids' help, which can make them feel important and useful.

  • Many times, people give their kids more screen time when they're sick, which helps give you some downtime. If you're not feeling well on a regular basis though, that's not really feasible (depending on your stance on screen time).

  • Make sure to give yourself grace, don't try to tackle the laundry, dishes, bills, errands etc. while trying to uphold your work duties and give your kids the love they need and the attention they crave. Slow down a bit and focus just on the necessities.

I try to see the positive aspects of most situations, but this tends to be more challenging because of how much poor health can affect every other aspect of your life. However, I will say that I have more empathy for others who are struggling with health issues and when I do feel "normal", I appreciate it so much more than I would if I didn't feel bad quite so often.

If you struggle with a chronic illness, I feel for you. Don't give up on finding remedies that can help (I should really practice what I preach). I find myself in a pessimistic place but as I write this, I feel a renewed sense of determination to continue trying to find something that can help. Life is too short to feel awful so much of the time. And to the mamas who are trying to do it all while feeling shitty, I see you. Make sure you take care of yourself too.


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