This Is What a Week With Chronic Illness Looks Like

A look at the past six days and how you can do better.
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Living with chronic illness is like falling down the stairs.

Time passes with thumps and smacks, the world spinning around you. Some knocks are mild, while others knock the air from your lungs. At the bottom of the staircase, you’re bruised and broken but still have to find a way to pick yourself back up.

This is how my last six days with a mental and physical chronic condition went and how you can do better.

Monday Started Well

Monday started as a good day.

I jumped out of bed before my alarm and was out the door early enough that I could run through a local fast-food joint and grab a biscuit on my way to work. I love me some bacon, egg, and cheese. At the office, the day passed like some few minutes with waves of productivity. I cleaned up a lot of the minor tasks sitting on my L-shaped desk and made a plan for the week.

That night, when I got home. I still had plenty of energy. I wrote two positivity posts, and added another 1700 words to The Adventures of Brody Bipolar.

Monday was a good day.

Start Today!

Tuesday Things Declined

Tuesday, things were a little less productive, but I still felt okay.

As the day progressed, it seemed like someone was sucking the power from my battery. By the end of the workday, all I wanted to do was go to bed. But Tuesday is Bible study night and people were relying on me to be there. So I pushed myself to go.

My body prepared for rebellion.

Wednesday Was Gray and Foggy

Wednesday, getting out of bed was like climbing Everest.

All my strength went into getting myself upright and putting on clothes. I skipped taking a shower because I just didn’t have the energy to do it. Once I was at work, I sat at my desk and stared at the computer screen. My brain refused to send the signals to my hands to press the keys on the keyboard or click the mouse. Little more got done than answering a few emails and some simple data entry. My mind was a blurry gray haze, and my body throbbed with fatigue.

Wednesday night required some work on my Positivity Club, so rather than crash the moment I got home, I spent another two hours at the computer.

Sitting at my desk Wednesday night, the pain started. First, a dull stiffness grew in my lower legs and shoulders. Then, the fever and full-on aches revved up, making every position uncomfortable.

From midnight on, there was no position that offered any relief. The more I tossed and turned, the more my mind ran in circles, reviewing all the things on my to-do list for the next few days.

Watercolor image of man reading in bed.
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Thursday Required Bedrest

Sleep never came (stupid insomnia), and by 4:00 Thursday morning, my head pounded with the beat of a thousand drummers.

By 6:00, I knew leaving the house would be impossible, so I texted my boss and told him I wasn’t coming. His voice echoed in disapproval with his simple “OK” reply.

I spent the next 12 hours in bed. The only positive for the day was being able to read several chapters of a book that’s haunted my to-read list for two years. My only food for the day was the prepackaged snacks I could grab easily on the way back from the bathroom.

My task list called for attention, but my body held firm to allow none of it to happen.

Friday Made Me Leave the House

Friday morning, I had an appointment with my eye doctor.

My mind and body still begged for bedrest, but I pushed myself to get a shower and put on clean clothes. Eye doctors get up close and personal, and the last thing I wanted was unpleasant aromas making our interaction anymore awkward.

Any trip to the doctor induces anxiety, but eye exams are even worse.

I hate having anyone close to my face, and the puffer machines some eye doctors use to check eye pressure are their own kind of torture. This being the first time I’d visited this clinic, it was a relief to find out they didn’t have a puffer machine, but she did dilate my eyes. The resulting headache made computer work impossible for the rest of the day.

What started with a productive Monday slid into a week of inactivity and frustration.

Saturday is Trying to Catch Up

Now it’s Saturday and my body and to-do list are fighting for attention.

Newsletters don’t go out unless you write them, and while I already wrote my next positivity stories, they still need to be edited, formatted, and scheduled. It’s rainy and dark outside, making the pull of the recliner that much stronger. But, again, I’m pushing myself.

Some things have to be done no matter how you feel.

Recognizing My Mistake

This is what it’s like to live with both bipolar disorder and a chronic illness.

I never know which condition will rear its ugly head or which symptoms from one disorder will cause problems for the other. What starts as an easy week can quickly tumble down the stairs, and the best of plans can come to nothing.

My biggest mistake was pushing myself Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

When I feel that level of fatigue, I know I should rest. Had I skipped Bible study or called off work Wednesday, the intensity of the symptoms that followed may have been a little less. Rather than three days of pulsating pain, I might have stopped at one. I know the warning signs, but refused to listen.

And now I’m paying the price.

Living With Illness Takes Balance

Your brain and body are sending you messages all the time.

It’s up to you to pay attention to listen. It sounds simple to say you need to rest when tired and eat when hungry, but the reality is life often impedes the things you need to do. Families still need to be cared for and work is necessary if you want to keep living indoors. And I’m kind of fond of living indoors.

The key is in finding the right balance.

I hate when my health dictates my life, but it happens more often than I’d like to admit. Between the mental chaos of social anxiety to the extreme fatigue brought on by Familial Mediterranean Fever, every day is a challenge. Some days I can ride the roller coaster and be productive, but other days, nothing is possible.

Hindsight is 20/20, and if you pay attention, you’ll see what you need to do differently next time.

On Monday, I was hopeful. I had visions of all the things I was going to do.

My week was supposed to be full of activity. But now it’s Saturday, and the last three days have vanished like a desert mirage. That’s the reality of living with chronic illness. It’s not that you don’t want to do more, or even that you don’t plan to do more.

Your mental and physical health decides for you what’s possible.

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Expect Some Bad Days

If you’re living with a mental or physical chronic illness, it’s essential to know there are some days you’ll have no control. You can count on feeling rotten and being depressed.

There will be times you won’t be able to go, no matter how much you want to. There will be days when you can’t function, no matter how many things are on your schedule. Some of those days will devastate you, but you must still keep fighting.

While bad days happen, so do good ones.

The choices you make on the better days impact the worse days. If you make wise choices, you suffer less. If you’re like me and ignore the red flags, you pay the price. Your best solution is to make each decision with care and foresight.

I don’t get many days as productive as Monday. But most days I’m able to function, do my job, and take care of my family. Those things are what’s most important to me. So I try to focus on what I can do, and I believe that’s the key to staying sane with chronic illness.

Focus on What You Can Do

No matter what illness takes from you, there will always be good things you can do.

Focus on what you can do. Celebrate each victory and take time to rest when you need to. Listen to your body and don’t fight it like I so often do. Ignore it and you’ll pay the price. Chronic illness doesn’t negotiate. Instead, it makes demands, and it’s up to you to listen.

Choose wisely and you’ll have more good days.

Until next time, keep fighting.

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  1. Finding balance is absolutely necessary. The way I slow myself down and find balance is by establishing a restful routine, just me time. Trust me, I don’t always abide by my own advice (and then I know I should have when things get out of kilter). Thanks for sharing your blog; it is so encouraging.

      1. Hi Scott, my most comforting routine is to make sure I get enough sleep, so I put my phone on mute at 9:00 p.m. so that I can get a good night’s rest until 7:00 a.m. I’ve learned to care for myself first. I treat myself to my favorite coffee shop at least twice weekly. Every evening, I spend at least thirty minutes dancing to my favorite music (it’s fun to just move and laugh) Just simple routines that make me happy have done wonders for my mental health. I used to try to help everyone in my family; that become so draining, so now I have shifted my focus to help myself more. And, I am happier for it. I enjoy reading your blog. Have a wonderful holiday season and wonderful New Year 2023!

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