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Chronic Illness - Chronic Pain Articles Available to Read and Reprint

Learning to Set Boundaries When You Live with Chronic Illness or Pain

By Lisa Copen

December was a hectic month. My husband's family came to visit for nine days, and within twenty-six hours of their departure, my parents and sister arrived from out of town for the Holiday Bowl events. Despite knowing that I was becoming ill, I participated in all of the events: the parade, the Bowl game (where I cheered for the Ducks, despite my sore throat), and the next day we went to Sea World (where, for a change, I welcomed the wheelchair).

Everyone left a couple of days ago, and I finally was able to reach a doctor to get anti-biotics. But I am sick; and being on anti-biotics means that I cannot take the regular drugs for my illness, so I am flaring too. Did I do too much? Did I over-do? I have to admit, yes. But more importantly, would I change a thing? No. Despite not feeling well, I have memories that will last a lifetime, and I have this week to now think of my health. And regain lost ground.

An important point, however: do I advocate overdoing? Spreading one's self too thin? Feeling bad and doing it anyway?

No. What I choose is not necessarily the best choice for you… and that is why, as I sit here on the couch to write this article, I choose setting limits as my topic.

Living with a chronic illness means that we will have to make choices to do something or to not do something every day. We do not have the advantage of "taking the day off" when we feel poorly, as we never quite feel up to par as we did before the illness. When illness is a daily part of our life, we will experience seasons: seasons where we feel physically better than average or seasons where our spiritual walk seems to disappear completely. 2 Timothy 4:2a says "be prepared in season and out of season."

If I can take this out of context for a moment I would like to suggest that, despite what season in which you are residing, be prepared to make decisions, and be prepared for some of them to be the wrong ones. Learning to live with chronic illness is a process. Start this year out by learning how to set limits and make the best choices. How do we do this?

Only you know what you should or should not do in order to avoid regrets. I could have skipped Sea World, but I wanted to be there and be a part of the family's experience. I felt at the moment that if I could be in the wheelchair I could pull it off. Others would eagerly tell me my choice was ridiculous. I know that there are days when I would have not considered such an outing and I would be able to say "I just can't go today" without any regrets. We all know where that line is that we need to draw, and no one can make that decision for us.

If you can't do something, tell those around you, but don't feel obligated to offer multiple explanations or apologies. If you have to say, "I can't do it," invite the others to go ahead without you or suggest something in which you could participate instead. Avoid going into long details about your illness and why it's holding you back. Despite your limits, try to stay positive.

Plan ahead. If you know company is coming or a special day is arriving, make plans to be as comfortable as possible. Rest the day before, hire a housekeeper instead of cleaning, heat up a frozen dinner, etc. Pace yourself as much as you can.

Pray for wisdom and discernment in making the best choices. Ask God to give your friends understanding. Speak firmly and confidently when you explain the circumstances, using your words carefully and full of grace. Don't just go with the flow and then make everyone else miserable. Don't accuse anyone of making you feel obligated to do too much. Explain, "I can do ___ ,but then I need to rest a bit." Try to avoid taking the comments that you will receive personally.

Make this the year that you learn your limits and communicate them effectively. For a great book on learning how to set effective limits with a Christian spirit, read Boundaries by Dr. Henry, Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, available at your local bookstore.

Get a free download of 200 ways to reach out to someone who is hurting from Beyond Caseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend when you sign up for hopenotes, a monthly ezine. Author of this article, Lisa Copen is also the founder of Rest Ministries and National Invisible Illness Awareness Week.





Don't forget! This article can be reprinted for free or syndicate Lisa's new articles.