Friday, October 18, 2013

My fall flare report, or what I did when lupus had me housebound

Because of the reappearance of my disease activity starting in August, I had to put myself on lock-down. For me, that means staying at home and doing as little as possible. Blah!

Moaning and groaning aside, I've learned that running around town, to do errands, meet friends, or get work done, is one of the worst activities I can engage when I'm experiencing disease activity. Anything that requires me to get ready and out the door at a certain time zaps me of any energy I have, and so I've learned not to do it.

For the first few weeks in September, I was strict: running only one errand a day, in addition to dropping off and picking up the girls from school. By mid-month, I was able to branch out a little more, but not much. It was imperative that I rest my body - not just in the form of actual sleep, but rather, in the form of inactivity. I ran myself ragged "doing" when we moved back into our house in August, so now I was having to reverse the error of my ways.

This call for inactivity forced me to revisit one of the most basic principles of the Despite Lupus method - altering my mindset for the good of my health. Physically, I needed rest, and emotionally, I need to be okay with that. I needed to embrace this sedentary, albeit temporary, lifestyle if I was going to improve my situation.

First, I decided to focus on what I could do, rather than what I wasn't able to. I wan't going to dwell on the five errands a day I was skipping. Instead, I would concentrate on the one that I could run - choosing wisely, prioritizing, and making sure I made the most of the one outing.

Secondly, I needed to engage myself in home-bound activities that would still allow me to feel productive and accomplished.  If I don't feel like I'm making progress (in whatever aspect of my life), I get frustrated. But if I can find creative ways to still feel like I'm getting things done while avoiding a whirlwind of activity, I stay positive. With a good attitude in hand, I'm able to focus on getting well, and my body responds accordingly.

So what did I do to fill the void of errands and outings?

1) Found things to sell on Ebay or Craigslist: After spending the last 9 months with the majority of our belongings in a storage pod in our driveway, you can imagine how much stuff we realized we no longer needed. (You can read about that post here.)  We donated a ton of stuff, but we did keep a few things to sell online, once we got around to it. Turns out my lockdown is a perfect time to sell stuff, and it was a really good use of my low-key time at home. I found myself feeling productive - snapping photos, writing descriptions, and posting items for sale - while not exerting too much energy at all. We've sold several items from my little Ebay run - and I feel good about my efforts.

2) Baking: I've mentioned before how much I love to bake. For me, it's therapeutic, creative, and I love trying what I make. Especially if it's good! So when I found myself home bound, I decided to try out a bunch of new recipes - to keep me interested, motivated, and "producing." Baking also forced me to be at home, of course, where my kitchen is - but as my cakes were baking or my sauces were simmering, I wasn't dwelling on the fact that I wasn't out and about. I was truly enjoying my time at home.

I also tried to use my baking to feel connected and purposeful. As you'll read below, I ended up having visitors while I was home, and because I always had a fresh batch of something around, it made for easy hosting. It made me feel like I still had something to offer - like I wasn't useless - even though I wasn't able to go out.

My sister also threw a party during this time, and she was thoughtful enough to call me a few days before to ask if I could make a batch of the new mint chocolate chip cookies I'd just tried making. I jumped at the chance, and felt a renewed sense of purpose. I was actually helping...even while homebound!

3) Found ways to socialize, without going anywhere: When prospective play dates, lunch dates, or opportunities to meet up with friends arose, I suggested we meet at my house instead of meeting out. And when people DID come over,  I promised myself I would keep it low key and casual.  I didn't go crazy cleaning the house, getting flowers, or fixing elaborate snacks (see #2 for instant snacks.) Johnny helped tremendously in cleaning up, and we found a quick swipe of the powder room sink and running a quick vacuum over the family room rug worked wonders. If fact, sometimes I subtly confined my guests to the lower level of the house so that Johnny and I didn't have to fret over cleaning the second floor. (Containment is key!) Also employing the girls to pick up their toys, help straighten up the house, and fill in as hostesses was a big help.

One BIG event that I did host was my bi-monthly bookclub meeting. I really didn't want to skip out on hosting, so I told myself that if I allowed myself to still hold the meeting, I HAD to take it easy. Thus, I hired a cleaning crew for the day of, ordered take-out for dinner, and hired a babysitter for an extra hour so Johnny could help run a couple of last minute errands.  Normally, the food would have been made from scratch, from appetizers to dessert, but this time, I just couldn't swing it. But I still wanted to make a homemade contribution to the evening, so I provided a dessert I already had on hand (again, see #2).  Simply HAVING the event made me feel great - like I was still living life, just in slow gear.  And the Indian food I ordered was a hit!

Another solution for staying connected while housebound might be Skype. It allows you face to face time with friends and family no matter where you are in the world. And then it really doesn't matter how clean (or not) your house is!

4) Organizing - While I made sure I didn't tackle any big re-orgs in the house (see next week's post on what I DIDN'T do), I did take the opportunity to do a lot of sorting, outlining, and list making. I knew that reconfiguring my master closet was out of the question, but sitting on my bed so I could see into it, and making a list of how I was going to strategically tackle it was definitely allowed. I made quite a few strategy lists - notating things that were on my "long-term" to do list, but had never been written down. It made me feel like I was still moving forward, because those big ticket to-do's in my head were now down on paper. I felt instant relief, and productive all at the same time. (One of the tasks that I thought of was spray painting a bunch of mismatched frames - a perfect thing to do over the course of a week's worth of home-bound days. Every couple of hours, I'd saunter outside, spray on a coat of paint, and then allow the frames to dry. I couldn't rush it - the paint had to dry on its own. so I...just...had...to...be...patient. The pace of painting, I found, was a good match for my low-key living!

5) Reading magazines: Okay - truth is, I only read a couple pages of one magazine during this time, but boy, was it nice. I NEVER sit down on the couch, flip open a magazine, and peruse its pages. The girls and I are always dashing off somewhere, cleaning up something, or moving from one activity to another - so I never make time during the day to just sit and read. But one day while I was homebound, I saw a home decorating magazine in the living room. The girls were doing puzzles, and while I was just about to start in on a load of laundry. On a whim, I decided to plop down on the couch, and read a few pages. Wow. Was that ever relaxing. It didn't last long - duty called before long, but it reminded me that sometimes, we actually have to force ourselves to stop, relax, and create our own moments of quiet and reprieve.

That's it - just a few things to keep my mind occupied while my body recouped. Anyone have any other good "homebound to-do's" that aren't too taxing?

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