Managing energy in chaos when you're chronically ill

Grey tone bed with woman asleep facing away from camera, dark blonde hair in a messy bun with the light from the window a
A low-energy month and I'm still sleep-deprived Photo by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash

It's been, well, another month. Since early September, I have:

  • Moved from a friend's house to a long-stay hotel
  • Started a new (and my first) full-time job
  • Attended a health advocate conference in New Jersey and a girls' trip in Rhode Island
  • Got sick during said trip
  • Came home to move AGAIN to an Airbnb

That's kind of a lot for one month, right? That's what my therapist says, anyway. Unsurprisingly, I've been pretty much stuck in survival mode —the theme of my year at this point. And the question I've had to keep asking myself is:

How do you keep going with limited energy, when everything around you is chaotic?

Even after decades of living with multiple chronic mental illnesses, I still don't have the answer. But even though I am exhausted from all the activity and definitely in the middle of a depressive slump, I don't regret anything I've done this past month. It's been rough, sure, but I've learned a lot.

At the HealtheVoices conference, I learned that the best person you can advocate for is yourself and that no one has all the answers. This was my first time attending a conference where all the attendees were patients as well as business owners, nonprofit founders, influencers, freelancers, or content creators of some kind.

Not only was it amazing to experience, but it also helped me realize that we all have to live at our own pace. Our diagnoses and treatment (when we finally get them) may partly dictate how we live and how much energy we have to do things, but that looks different for everyone.

At the girls' trip, a reunion with high school friends I haven't seen together since my own wedding four years ago, I learned about gratitude and acceptance. Last year, I dreamed of moving to Europe, staying nomadic, staying freelance and flexible, and living my best life by the ocean somewhere. This year, I've had to give up on every one of those dreams —for now.

Spending time with old friends in a small island town I could see myself being very happy in, was a definite challenge. I had to consciously remind myself to enjoy where I am without comparing it to my own life.

As much as I love the act of travelling and moving around, all the activity has been hard on my body and mind. But I realized there's a lot of opportunity for gratitude: for smooth flights, minimal delays, safety, housing options, the list goes on. Looking back, I wouldn't have missed a second of those experiences, even if I didn't enjoy some of them at the time.

And finally, my new job. There's been a serious adjustment period, and I know that will continue as I learn to navigate a new way of living and working. I have a lot of hope that things will get easier as we find a home and I develop a healthier routine. But so far, I think this job has taught me to take things slow, manage my time efficiently, and really question my own limits.

Now, it's Saturday morning here and I'm already ready to go back to bed. My husband and I have a quiet weekend planned, but there are still chores, errands to run, another move, and socializing to do. And I'm out of caffeine, so...wish me luck?