May is lupus and arthritis awareness month. And while I can see my fellow advocates spreading awareness on social media on a daily basis, I cannot seem to get involved, even though I have both of these illnesses.
Part of me applauds them for their efforts, but I just can’t do it. It’s like I want to shout my support from the rooftops, but feel as if I’ve lost my voice. It’s something that I think happens to all of us at some point.
Just as with anything else, your level of involvement in advocacy can ebb and flow. And if you have a chronic disease, your health can be one of the reasons for why this happens. For instance, if things are going really well, you might be busy doing something else or may not feel the advocacy itch as much. And if things are going really bad, you might not have the energy or ability to focus on anything besides your health.
That’s why it’s important to know when you may need to step away and take care of yourself. This is especially true for chronic illness advocates who find themselves stretched too thin caring for others more than they care for themselves. In some instances, caring for others becomes so overwhelming that we just can’t do it anymore.
"Compassion fatigue" has become a kind of buzzword these days. The term was originally used to describe the experiences of doctors, nurses, and other health workers. Nowadays, it applies to all caregivers as well as chronic illness advocates like ourselves since we often end up taking on much more than our own experiences with illness.
While compassion fatigue can help you reevaluate your priorities, it can also lead to chronic stress and make you even more sick. So here are some tips to help you cope with awareness and compassion fatigue:
- Take a sick day — or a week or month if you have to. Step away, take a break and recharge.
- Take a moment to talk things out. I have a group of chronic friends and we often talk through the things that are happening, along with sharing advice and inspiration.
- Get connected. Social media allows us to connect with people like never before. So reach out to others if you’re feeling isolated.
- Manage stress using methods that work best for you.
On a side note: I also feel that sometimes we end up with the same people being vocal all the time. So in that respect, I don’t mind stepping back if it allows new people in. And while I love all aspects of advocacy, sometimes taking time off is just what the doctor ordered.
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