Several weeks ago, I found myself feeling a bit faint during Sunday mass. It was no surprise - it was Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), and the gospel reading (during which you stand) is traditionally longer than normal. (This happens every year, by the way, so this longer reading came as no surprise!)
When I started to notice my light-headedness, my first reaction was to just deal with it. Everyone else in the church probably felt the same way I did, so I told myself to just hang in there. I waited another minute or two, and noticed that the feeling wasn't getting any better. So then I told myself that I couldn't possibly sit down, because what would everyone around me think? I looked like a healthy, active mom - why should I get to sit down while everyone else was toughing it out? Just stand there, I told myself, grip the pew a little harder, and concentrate on the words of the reading.
And then I wised up.
I realized I wasn't even capable of focusing on the gospel because I was too busy trying not to be light headed. And I was so worried about what everyone else would think about my actions, I wasn't considering what the best action was for me to take. Right then, I had fallen into the same trap I had so many times before with lupus.
I used to expend so much energy trying to keep up appearances. Acting like everything was okay, and pretending that lupus wasn't affecting me left me no energy to actually make good decisions, take care of myself, or enjoy life at all. Instead of successfully living within the boundaries of the disease, I was struggling to defiantly live without any accommodations at all. And we all know how very ineffective that turned out to be!
So realizing that my energy was being misdirected, I re-evaluated. With a clear and level head, I realized I should just sit down. I needed to be present and accountable - for the girls (who were being unbelievably good during the reading), for the words of the gospel, and for the rest of the day. So if sitting down allowed me to return to a normal state of being, then that's what I needed to do.
So I sat. And the light-headedness immediately went away. And I felt normal once again.
And if you can believe it, within three minutes of me sitting down, an older gentleman a few pews in front of us fell to the floor. He'd fainted. Immediately the mass was stopped, the priest and other medical professionals in the congregation ran over, and an ambulance was called. As I sat in the church, saying a few prayers while the entire congregation waited patiently for the EMT's to arrive, I reflected on my decision to sit down.
And I decided that I'd chosen wisely.
So the next time you're worried about doing something to accommodate for your illness: taking sick leave from work, carving out time to take a nap, asking for help when you're out and about, passing on a hand shake or a hug because your joints are aching, or taking a rain check on an outing because you're not up to it - feel free to use this story as a reason for your actions. I'm happy to take the heat for your decision to take care of yourself.
And I guarantee you'll have chosen wisely.