Tag Archives: limitations

Adapting to the new normal

One of the hardest things about being longer term ill, is adapting to the new limitations. It may feel like giving up. It may seem like you’re accepting that some things are gone forever, and that can hurt. But the thing about illness is that it won’t be cowed, or impressed by you fighting to hold onto your old life. It may well bite your arse for that. 

I’m wary of positivity, as it can do far more harm than good. But, when it comes to adapting, a somewhat positive outlook can help. Look at what you can keep, rather than what you have to let go. See your adaptations as ways of safeguarding your health and maximising your options for the future. You may have losses to grieve, but at the same time focus as much as you can on what is still possible, and make the best of it. Adapting to limitations is not a happy process, but trying to find the positives can help a lot with coping. Fending off despair is also important, because that just robs you of more options and gives nothing in return.

The last ten years or so have not been a smooth decline for me. I can’t walk as far as I used to – that’s been a dramatic shift in the last year. Shoulder damage means I can’t swim, or lift much. I am however sleeping better and this means late nights take less of a toll so I have more scope for events and a social life than I used to have. 

Having got the right kit in place, the massive problems my poor circulation used to cause are now minor problems. I’m in a lot less pain as a consequence. Using hand supports during work, I get less pain and inflammation. I’ve had to give up on musical instruments, but I can still write, sew, knit, colour things – I’ve kept more than I’ve lost. 

I rest more. This means I work more efficiently – I may be getting more done and more effectively at this point than I was five or ten years ago, because I think more about how to use my energy and I take more breaks. This has also helped with my mental health. Everything I’ve done to better handle my bodily limitations has also improved my mental health, or at least stopped it becoming any worse. 

The last year or so has been really tough, and I’ve done a lot of trying to understand why. Some of this I might be able to fix, or at least manage better. Some of it might be a new normal – I don’t know yet. What I do know is that the best thing I can do is figure out how to live within my limits. The more well I can be, the more options I have. Pushing to hold on to what I used to do is likely to make me more ill and take even more from me than I might otherwise lose. So, I have a constant fettling process about what I eat, how and when I rest, how and when I move, how I support my sleep… 

(Also, this isn’t a request for advice. All of the specific details about what I’m dealing with are deliberately absent from this post. If you don’t know me well enough to know about the various things I am dealing with, you don’t know me well enough to have much of a shot at offering unsolicited advice. Thank you)


Dancing Awkwardly

Dancing has been important to me for most of my life. However, as I frequently struggle with pain, stiffness and low energy, it’s also a bit of a challenge. This is something I’ve been deliberately working on for a few years now. I can’t throw myself about like a lunatic pixie anymore, so finding new ways to dance that my body can sustain has been necessary. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I’m using my arms more – I can create an impression of speed and energy with my hands for far less effort than using my feet. Also, big, slow arm movements look really dramatic, but don’t even raise my pulse. I have the energy for those, reliably.

Jumping up and down on two feet at the same time jars everything and is way too labour intensive. However, a bouncy shift between feet with one foot on the ground at all times takes far less effort and jars nothing. I can feel like I’m making a lively response to the music without wearing myself out too quickly.

Dancing from the hips and not moving my feet very often takes less energy than moving my feet.

I can share the motion round my body, if I have one or two bits of me moving I can be creative without getting too tired. I am learning to think more about my body as a whole when dancing, and how to use every part and spread the motion around so I don’t strain anything.

I can work with my own awkwardness. There’s interest and drama in not being smooth and graceful. Sometimes it is better to dance more with my elbows and knees, to embrace the stagger, to flail a bit and let my body do what suits it. Overtly not-sexy dancing can be emotionally liberating as well. I don’t have to be sexually performative or attractive, I can be messy and punk and feel better about myself for dancing with what I’ve got.

I don’t have to go with the most obvious rhythm in a piece of music, there are always slower currents in a song that I can get into. I can dance with different melodies and instruments. It doesn’t have to be all about the drum speed. Again, I have the scope to do something more interesting by resisting the obvious and co-operating with my own body.

My limitations are obliging me to be a more creative dancer. Amusingly, from the feedback I’m getting, what I’m doing looks high energy. It isn’t. I can dance while barely raising my pulse, if I want to. I can dance without hurting myself, not overloading joints or tiring my muscles too much. I can dance with my own limitations and by doing so, I feel better in my body and better about my body.