Lesson 4: Stay Calm
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Possibly the most important lesson I learned throughout my long-term illness is to stay calm. Whether in the middle of the initial crisis, or during recovery, staying calm is going to be your lifeline. If you are freaking out, those around you can't help. You need to be calm enough to acknowledge your needs and to ask for others to help you. Again, this is true in the middle of an emergency or as you are getting back to "normal" life.
For example, I am ready to drive for the first time since April 1st. I am scared to death. I have asked for my husband to take me out for a test drive, without my children in the car, to make sure I am ready. Just thinking about getting behind the wheel makes my blood pressure rise. I can feel the butterflies in my stomach as I write this paragraph. I continually remind myself, though, that this is a skill that I have mastered and that I have never caused an accident in the 20 years I've been driving. I will be okay. I will, however, be sure to take a few deep breaths before heading off and remember that being calm is a state of mind I've been practicing for several weeks.
Keeping your cool is going to get you through many of the upcoming hurdles. Seeing the medical bills mound up is not pleasant, but you know they are coming. There is no use stressing about them when they arrive in the mail.
Don't cause yourself anxiety over sending out thank you notes to those who brought you gifts, meals, or spent time visiting you. Your friends did this out of the kindness of their hearts. Because they care about you. They are not worried about social niceties at this moment. They only care that you are getting well.
Finally, as you improve every day, you may notice that there are parts of your life that you have given up control over that you are ready to become in charge of again. For me, it is some housework and parenting that my husband has done a wonderful job of handling. Don't assume that it is helpful to yank back your duties. Ease your way back into your general routine. Remember that your family members have had to adjust along with you. They are going to need time to get used to you being up and running.
I am not a medical professional, and I don't have all the answers about illnesses, but I am a person who has been through a couple of months of pure craziness. This series on lessons I've learned are the things that were helpful to me and my family. Hopefully, though sharing my experiences, I can help someone else who is going through a life-changing illness. If I can help, the two months (plus) that I have spent watching my life pass while I sit on the couch will all have been worth it. Please see Lesson 1, Lesson 2, and Lesson 3 for more advice on how to deal with emergency and long-term medical issues.