When You Have to Cancel Your Plans

This is a post I wrote especially for ProHealth’s Inspirational Corner and first appeared there just over a month ago

It happens over and over again, however carefully we plan and prepare for the things that we want to do, the illness decides it has other ideas! Once again, we have to say no at the last minute and not only do we have to miss out on a rare event that we were looking forward to, it feels like we’re letting people down too.

Last weekend I’d planned a girl’s night at my house. My friends are all very understanding and know that it’s going to be an early night. In fact, they even look out for signs that I’m tiring and I don’t always have to be the one that says it’s time to stop now. Because I’m hosting there’s no background music raising my stimulation levels and I don’t have to expend any of my energy getting there and back. It’s a pretty safe way of socialising for me! But even so, an unexpected flare of symptoms cropped up, which I just couldn’t seem to get in control of and I had to cancel.

We look forward to events like this because they happen so rarely, often they mean quite a bit of preparation, days of taking it really easy just to make sure you have the best chance to attend and enjoy. So disappointment is felt keenly, and no matter how many time is happens, and it happens a lot, it’s not something you get used to, it still feels pretty intense.

Here are some of the ways I deal with it:

I remind myself that the illness is responsible not me!

I’m pretty skilled now at managing this illness, I can feel well most of the time now because I’ve become an expert of self-care. In order to do that I control every aspect of my life carefully, and it gives me an illusion of being in control of the illness. So when the illness gets in the way of my plans, I can somehow feel like it was my failure, I didn’t control it well enough. When I notice myself feeling guilty, or giving myself a hard time about not being in control, I gently remind myself that if I was able to be fully in control I would not have an illness. I do the best that I can to be well but it is not my fault when I am not! It’s not my fault that I have to cancel, it’s just the way things are. I’m not letting people down, the illness is!

I’ve learned to befriend feelings like frustration and disappointment

Because feelings like frustration and disappointment are such regular visitors I have learned to make peace with them. They are not pleasant or comfortable feelings but I recognise them as an understandable reaction to the circumstances. I offer myself tender compassion for yet again being in a situation that triggers them. I turn towards my feelings, allowing myself to observe their exact flavour in that particular moment. Once I have fully acknowledged them I turn my attention to other things. It’s a bit like having an annoying little brother, once I’ve paid him enough attention I can allow him to play with his Lego in the same room as me while I get on with something else, eventually he’ll get up and leave the room to go annoy someone else!

I’ve learned to make sure my happiness doesn’t hinge on these highlights

Although I can’t help but get excited by a highlight, I’ve learned that the more I can be happy and content in the here and now, the less hangs on them. It’s much easier not to be attached to a particular event when life is good anyway. This takes a lot of attention to appreciation, but when you learn to be fully appreciative of all the little things in life, you realise that you don’t have to rely on the thrills!

I have a consolations box of tricks A.K.A. the misery first aid kit

Taking the little brother analogy one step further, it would be hard to ignore his irritating noises while he’s playing in the same room, if my attention wasn’t being pleasantly anchored elsewhere. When we’re invaded with negative feelings we’re not always in the best state of mind to distract our self with the positive. So I have a repertoire of things that I know will distract me and lift my spirits when I’m feeling down. I’ve thought about these in advance when I was in the right state of mind to think of enjoyable things and I keep a record of them to remind myself what I can do when I’m not feeling so good. My misery first aid kit includes the following reminders: that it’s not my fault; a list of my favourite uplifting essential oils; my favourite comedy programs; get out in nature somehow; call a friend to talk; read a trashy novel.

What will you put in your misery first aid kit?

A small favour: I’d be very grateful if you could rate this post using the stars below the related posts.  Thank you!

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