Taming My She-wolf: Life with Lupus and the Holiday Aftermath
Last updated: May 2023
And so it begins. I could feel She-wolf (aka lupus) creeping along the edges of my life, looking for her opportunity to pounce. I ignored her, and I had way too much to do to allow her to catch me. Truthfully, she's always with me. She is just usually sleeping. Most of the time, I can deal with her occasional brief awakenings. I figured if I just kept moving, she would never really catch me. We were playing a dangerous game of hide-and-seek, and she was it. We all know She-wolf is a relentless stalker, and she was going to catch me no matter what I did. Attempting to hide from her is probably one of the least bright things I regularly do.
Taking on too much with lupus
I have to admit. Sometimes I'm kind of a slow learner. A year and a half into diagnosis, I continue to willingly sacrifice my spoons to the altar of busyness, knowing that the payback is brutal. I'm often left with an energy debt I can never repay. This time, it was the altar of Habitual Holiday Craziness. B.D. (before diagnosis), I would begin to move at the speed of light a few weeks before Thanksgiving to ensure my family has an amazing holiday season and that my church has well-planned and perfectly executed programs. I would run myself ragged, trying to make sure everything was just right. It's what I call normal.
This was the first time since the pandemic started that my church would have our regular holiday programs, and my family could get together. We started planning in September so that everything would be perfect. Yummy things were already simmering on the stove and roasting in the oven the week before Thanksgiving. It smelled amazing! I found myself standing in a grocery store clinging to my walker, trying not to get run over. That's when it got really crazy. All of a sudden, gifts had to be purchased and wrapped, multiple large family dinners had to be coordinated and prepared, Christmas programs needed to be written and executed, and I believed that I had to be the person to get it done.
My lupus caught up with me
That was my first mistake. Every time someone called on me, I accepted the task. I found myself overbooked and under-spooned, and like a hamster on a wheel, I just couldn't stop. It seemed that there weren't enough hours in a day or days in a week. My energy began to lag, but I pushed through anyway. Things had to get done, even though I knew I was already in deep trouble. I was diagnosed in the midst of the pandemic, so I had forgotten how much time and energy it took to get it all done. However, She-wolf never forgets anything. I could feel her getting even closer. She was not going to let me get away this time.
Wolves often circle their prey before they pounce. I am grateful that she let me get through Christmas Day. The day after, I was just a little more fatigued and a little more stiff than usual, but I could go about my day with only a few adaptations. Thinking I had escaped the worst of it, I went about my daily errands, ordering groceries and getting things ready for my kids to hang out at the house with their friends. This wasn't too bad, I thought. May She-wolf will only be semiconscious and go back to sleep without really setting me back. As night fell, I could feel her getting even closer as my joints began to ache a little more. I decided to go to bed early, hoping that would be enough to keep her away. It wasn't.
And then came the lupus flare
I woke up this morning with a she-wolf on my back. I am in a full-on flare. My face is covered in an itchy rash, and my joints are so inflamed that I cannot walk; the fatigue is crazy, my headaches and I'm struggling to concentrate. I should be angry and frustrated right now, but I'm not. The truth is, I'm glad she's here. I was tired of running, and I needed the break.
I'm looking forward to the slowness of the next few weeks. My she-wolf and I will cuddle in bed, meditating, watching movies, eating good food, and healing while I pay back my mountain of energy debt. We will practice self-care until she is comfortable enough to go back to sleep.
When I was introduced to She-wolf, I was angry and afraid. I fought her at any moment that I could. I was determined to keep my life as it was, even if it killed me. It nearly did. I got so sick, and I had to choose my life or my "normal." It was so hard to give up the life I had planned for myself. I felt like part of me did die. Then, a compassionate friend shared with me the importance of taking time to mourn what I've lost and choosing how to move forward. That made so much sense to me! I followed her advice and chose not to fight She-wolf but to embrace her. I know that sounds a bit like I've lost my mind, but now I see her as a part of me. If I fight her, I fight myself.
I have consciously chosen to focus on the positives in my life with her. When She-wolf catches me, I choose not to greet her with anger, shame, or regret. Instead, I greet her with forgiveness and understanding. It's usually my fault that she comes, and she definitely complicates my life, but she isn't all bad. She has given me many gifts the best ones are learning to take things slowly and enjoying each moment. For that, I am truly eternally grateful. I know that she will be my ever-present companion, so I cannot kill her. My goal now is to tame her into a sweet little cub.
This is my journey, and I'm sticking to it!
How are you most likely to respond when someone offers you unsolicited advice about your lupus?