Monday, November 28, 2016

Accommodating Holidays

The holiday season is already starting. It's a rather busy time for the majority of people between parties and meals amongst family, work, and friends circles. It's not even December and my month is already booked with holiday festivities.

The holidays tend to be a stressful time for everyone. The hustle and bustle of preparing our homes, traveling, hosting others in our homes, gathering gifts, attending celebrations, and more. However, for those of us with chronic illness there is an added stress of accommodating our health around the demands of the holidays so that we may also enjoy the holidays.

Whether we're traveling or we're remaining local, there's always concerns surrounding the holidays that we need to address for our own self-care and enjoyment.

I've already had to make such accommodations by changing the date of the gathering I'm hosting so as to allow myself to be able to physically attend a work gathering. My parents and I were concerned that I wouldn't be able to physically complete both one same day, even though the times didn't conflict. But would I physically feel up to both parties in the same day? Most likely not.

Many of us have dietary restrictions to take into consideration. This is easy enough to control if we're hosting holiday celebrations but is another ball game if we are visiting another household or party. We may not be able to enjoy the available foods or we may need to limit our intake to reduce the side effects of eating. This can also apply to activity accommodations. For example, I must be mindful of what and when I eat when wanting to participate in activities as food intake worsens my short bowel. This was another consideration for scheduling parties as I often experience pain and nausea after eating that can last for the remainder of the day.

For some individuals activity reduces GI distress whereas for those like me, it increases GI distress. I'm able to better control my short bowel frequency when I limit my movements. In order to enjoy activities that require physical activity I must limit my food and take medications to slow my short bowel.

Pill burden is another common accommodation, particularly with meals. For some this can be embarrassing as it can lead individuals to feel that it draws attention to themselves and their health conditions. Others are bothered by the sheer number and frequency of medications required. When traveling, toting around multiple medication bottles is a hassle that takes up valuable space for other necessary items, especially when flying. Yet keeping medications in their respective bottles can be necessary when flying to reduce confusion about medication necessity and to comply with states laws regarding prescription labeling.

Flying tends to always weigh heavily on my mind with my health condition. This was worse when I had an ostomy but still remains with me even without an ostomy. When I had an ostomy I had to be mindful of how many supplies I had packed, preparing for a TSA search, always worried that I would encounter a TSA agency who would try to challenge my medical necessity for my supplies. What if my ostomy leaked while I was in the airport or while flying? Did I pack enough supplies to last during my visit? Now I worry more about restroom access due to my short bowel. Will I have enough time to use the restroom adequately before boarding? What if we have a delay on the tarmac and we aren't allowed to exit the airplane? What if I urgently need to use the restroom and I'm not allowed to use the lavatory? The what ifs run rampant when I'm flying.
The what ifs reduce in number when traveling by car as public restrooms are fairly excessive in number in the United States although does decrease in number when traveling through rural areas. For travel tips with an ostomy, review the UOAA's Ostomy Travel Tips.

Whichever holiday you may be celebrating, wherever you may be celebrating, I wish you the happiest of holidays and enjoyment with your loved ones.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chronically Dating

I had left behind the dating world for nearly 7 years and I thought I was leaving it behind permanently. However, after my marital separation and divorce I found myself once again dating. I was suddenly thrust back into situations calling for me to decide when, what, and with whom to share the details of my chronic illness.

I previously shared how I've chosen to disclose my health and particularly my past with an ostomy. I am much more confident in my disclosures than I once was when I was younger. I'm now comfortable with someone not accepting me because of my health. I've learned that if another can't accept my health, then I don't need that person in my life. In fact, events of the last year have lent to my improved ability of letting go in general.

Dating after divorce with a chronic illness has been interesting to say the least. I've become increasingly open about the details of my health and illness with suitors and I've been met with overflowing acceptance. I've always been accepted by those I've shared my health with previously, however, this time around the dating world has been filled with even more acceptance. Perhaps dating in my 30s is part of the difference as we tend to view the world, ourselves, and others in a different light than we did in our younger years. This may also explain the differences in reactions I've experienced since re-entering singledom.

Although I've been accepted by each partner, there were some very different reactions. My suitors ranged from "I'm ready to take care of you in whatever fashion required" to "I can't lose you early on in your life". While one suitor was eagerly ready to spend whatever amount of time my life holds for me caring for me and my health needs another suitor was so concerned about losing me early in life due to the likelihood of cancer that he wasn't sure he would be able to handle a romantic life with such a very real expiration date.
I was shocked to actually encounter someone who was so concerned about being able to handle the real possibility of my own death at a relatively young age. I am accustomed to death, particularly the threat of my own that sometimes I forget what others may feel or experience in relation to my own mortality. I also wondered if this person would be the individual those of us with chronic illness all dread: the person who leaves because of their own inability to handle life with chronic illness.

I'm not sure how we guard ourselves against such individuals as I haven't truly been in such a situation. Guarding our hearts is a wise move to a certain degree. At some point, we either must trust our partner or we must let go. The degree to which we scrutinize our potential life partners varies from person to person and experience to experience. I can only urge others to be aware of their own comfort levels and move within those boundaries. We aren't required to move past those boundaries until we are ready, whatever those boundaries may be. Dating isn't always the easiest lifestyle and chronic illness can complicate dating life. However, I view loving yourself first and finding your own happiness as a fundamental key to tackling life, including the dating world. We don't need to seek love and acceptance from others when we find love and acceptance from within ourselves. Once we have conquered this feat, any love and additional acceptance from others becomes a shared joy rather than a request for validation and esteem that we have yet to afford ourselves.

I found part of accepting my life and in particular my divorce was to also accept the possibility of spending the remainder of my life alone. With marriage, I had a lifetime caregiver if needed. With divorce, I gave up that lifetime caregiver for a life of uncertainty on my own terms. I don't know what the future holds, but I've accepted the unknown. I do know that no matter what is in store for me, I create my own happiness and I can survive. The dating world is no different - we hold within ourselves the power for happiness and survival.