New Year, Same Chronically Ill Me
Ever since I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) in 2017, I have hated this time of year. I refuse to make any resolutions, and I usually take some time away from social media to avoid looking at everyone else’s personal rebrandings.
I’ve given some thought as to why I feel this way, and this is what I have come up with.
First, the new year is often a time for reflection, and looking back can be painful if you’ve had a tough, or even traumatic, year. I seemed to be even more inundated than usual this year with video montages of people’s “happiest year of their lives,” and this has been particularly difficult to accept, given that we are still in the throes of a pandemic that has caused suffering for so many people.
Second, focusing on the future can be challenging when you don’t know what to expect from the new year. There is a built-in level of uncertainty for anyone living with a serious health condition that makes looking ahead a bit daunting. I find it hard to set goals and think about what I want from life when I know that things can be snatched away from me if my health takes a turn for the worse.
Third, there seems to be this narrative about resolutions that says with enough effort, we can somehow perfect and optimize our lives. But for many of us, this just isn’t the case. There is so much outside of our control.
The fixed and rigid expectations that many people have about resolutions is incompatible with the lived reality of many chronically ill people. It’s not realistic for me to say, “I will go to the gym x times a week” when I don’t know what my energy levels, ability to breathe, or medication side effects will be like on any given day. When it comes to managing my PH, flexibility has been the name of the game. I listen to my body and don’t beat myself up on the days when I don’t feel up to doing anything.
Messages about exercise and diet, in particular, can be relentless and triggering this time of year, and the reality is that strict rules, restrictions, and routines don’t work for everyone. I know I personally won’t be setting any alarms to go to the gym before work, or giving up any of my favorite foods. (Life’s too short.) But I will move my body when I can, sleep in when I need to, and above all, be kind to myself.
I won’t claim that 2022 “will be my year,” when I’m all too aware of life’s tendency to lob curveballs with little to no notice. Instead, I will approach the new year the way I ended the last one — one day at a time.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.