Last year I had the joy of adding hyperthyroidism/graves disease to my short list of chronic illnesses.
I knew it was coming – I’ve had a questionable thyroid since I was 12 – but it was still a bit of a shock. And I totally denied the idea that it was a chronic illness.
How could I have a chronic illness? I have to homeschool, keep house, and continue starting (but not finishing) the millions of creative projects I find on Pinterest?
I’m not an expert on chronic illness or homeschooling…or homeschooling with chronic illness. But I feel the need to be real for a moment.
Sometimes homeschooling and dealing with chronic illness just sucks. Hell, chronic illness tends to just suck.
Many years ago (ahem, just 4 really) I wrote a detailed post about parenting with bipolar. But much has changed since then.
It took me a long time to accept that I have one chronic illness, let alone two. And there was one argument against considering myself chronically ill.
- Other people have it way worse.
What I came to realize is that other people ‘having it way worse’ does not actually affect my diagnoses. A chronic illness is one that lasts for a long time. Graves and bipolar are both lifelong diseases. Not only that, but they both affect me more days than not.
So check – chronic illness. Accept it.
But like many people who are first faced with accepting chronic illnesses, I refused to accept my limitations.
And I don’t mean that in a “she will overcome” type way. I mean I burnt myself out day after day, not understanding why I was miserable and exhausted.
It wasn’t until I had my fourth “rough month” in a row that I figured out I was doing it to myself. I was ready to blame everyone and everything else.
My husband, my kids, my friends.
My job, my commitments, the clutter on the couch.
I finally figured it out. By overextending myself every single day, I was having a rougher and rougher time. I did not reset at night – ever.
I missed deadlines, missed meetings, and missed time with my family and friends. I felt like I was constantly apologizing “I’m sorry, it’s a bad day”. “I’m sorry I forgot…brain fog, ha”.
There are only so many times one can apologize without getting down on themselves.
So I had to learn to work with and around my limitations. It’s really not as bad as it sounds, it’s just about being realistic.
I don’t know how much energy I’m going to have day to day. And the variance isn’t small. Some days I sleep 18 hours and some days I sleep 1 hour. In fact, I’ve had both ends of the spectrum in the past month alone.
So my limitations mean that any plans I make have to be flexible. I only plan nonflexible things for one day a week, if that.
Spontaneous plans are welcome, some days. And other days I have to refuse. (Even though I am really bad at saying no).
Because sometimes you have to skip schoolwork and go to a hockey game.
My limitations mean that we are relaxed homeschoolers and I always have a backup plan for independent work.
Online games and Netflix documentaries are my best friends.
It also means that on high energy days, we get a lot done. We have to get a lot done to make up for the low energy days.
It also means we operate on a loop schedule. I don’t have set days but we work in a semi-loop.
For instance, we try to get math and reading/spelling done twice a week. So any good day starts with those. Then we move onto another subject in our loop. History, science, music, etc. We just pick up where we left off.
That means that some weeks we cover history 5 times. Other weeks we don’t get to it at all.
Homeschooling without spoons ultimately means that I have to take a step back and make sure we finish what is most important. And that might change day by day, week by week.
And it means that on good days, my kids can be home with me to enjoy that time. I don’t have to wait for them to get off the bus. We can snuggle up, go out and enjoy life, or do schoolwork. Whatever we may fancy that particular day.
It’s forced me to take a step back and focus on what is important. And I mean that on a small scale of ‘I have to eat sometime‘ to a bigger scale of ‘do I really need to clean the toilet now or should I sit down a play a game with my kids?’
Life is fleeting. And thought I may do less on a day to day basis, chronic illness has forced me to do more of what matters.