The Lupus Card: A Gift from Me to You

Carie ShermanBy Carie Sherman

I’m feeling the stress of the holidays. I bet you are too. Personally, I’ve taken on too much work. And I’m using a crazy amount of energy reigning in my inner Clark W. Griswold. But I’ll be fine, and it’s for one reason: I am the proud carrier of the Lupus Card. And I use it anytime I’m about to:

  • Add to my list of “Must Do’s”
  • Beat myself up about an unrealistic expectation
  • Let myself feel guilty about this failure or that misgiving
  • Throw myself a raging pity party

Warning: The Lupus Card is not prestigious. Membership is not recommended. It offers no cash back or bonus miles. But it’s given me something money can’t buy: Much-needed perspective. You can borrow my card anytime by using this handy mnemonic to evaluate your circumstances. Try it and you’re bound to feel better physically—and emotionally.

The Lupus Card: A Handy Mnemonic for Finding Perspective

L is for Love

When your energy is limited by a chronic illness, you can either fight or learn to live with it. I tried fighting, but I’m a lover. So now that my body limits me, I aim to make decisions based on LOVE. Sometimes it’s for the love of others. Often it’s for the love of myself. It felt selfish at first, but here’s the thing: I do much better by the world when my mental health is best. And nothing makes me feel as alive and happy as chasing something I love—whether it’s meaningful work, a beautiful three year-old, or holiday traditions that span geographical restrictions. Think about the last time you felt really great. Were you being guided by love? Now glance at your “to do” list. Where’s the love?

U is for Understanding

I used to get wrapped up in the actions of others. If my boss was mad, she must have been mad at me. If I got cut off in traffic, the world was conspiring against me. Then my therapist told me that was selfish. How self-centered to think that little ol’ me was the cause of and source for such challenges—particularly because I used each of my speculations to hate on myself. Being sick encourages you to approach life through a lens of understanding. I’m figuring out what IS about me (like, how my doctor can’t fix me if I don’t do my part) and what’s not (the lady who cut in line at the post office must need this more than me, and today I can give that to her). This lens also reminds me that people who love me will understand when I fail. I can also see now that when I fail, people will understand. And those who don’t, well, who needs ‘em? Striving for understanding can give you peace.

P is for Patience 

When I got sick, I wanted a diagnosis and a cure. I had no idea that lupus limbo is all trial and a good share of error. So I wait. And it’s given me time to think about the urgency with which I tend to approach life. I seek instant gratification for my every whim. But lupus has given me time to pause, and it’s helping me to stop trying to force my will upon life. That alone helps me feel better. I’m not being passive, but I’m learning to be okay with uncomfortable circumstances and relax into That Which I Cannot Control.

U is for Universality

My favorite cartoon of Calvin and Hobbes shows Calvin looking up at the night sky and saying, “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” Lupus has reminded me of the vastness of our world AND that we’re all made of the same stuff. Some people use religion or science or spirituality or comedic one-liners to get this concept; I apparently needed to develop a chronic illness. The systemic nature of lupus is a reminder of how everything interrelates. My lupus friends might agree—treating SLE is a complicated game of Whac-a-Mole: Push down one symptom and—POP!—here comes another.

Here’s an example: My wrists and fingers always hurt to varying degrees. Today they hurt more than most. But here’s the kicker: My pain today means that I’m writing. For me, writing is love. I’ll take a little increased pain for good writing any day. So you’re tired today because you stayed up late wrapping gifts? If you love making gifts look pretty, if you understand you’re only human and can only do so much, and you treat yourself with patience while making it through a semi-foggy day, then hot damn!—it was worth it. Thanks, universe!

S is for Silence

It seems counterintuitive to stop what you’re doing and be still when facing a list a mile long, but stillness helps us catch our breath and stop spinning our wheels. The more mindful of quiet you become, the more stillness you find. And when you increase the silence, you begin hearing your body’s signals as it attempts to guide you through life. Hint: That “but I don’t want to” whine in your head, the tummy ache, the cold that won’t go away…your body is talking! You might be surprised at its wisdom.

Love, Understanding, Patience, Universality, and Silence are not the first words lupus conjures (believe me, lupus caught me on a good day; my typical words describing lupus are far more “choice”). But I can’t underestimate the good stuff. I’ve met people of different walks of life; I’m supported by a community I never knew existed; I can help others who are struggling; and I have the chance to give those people in my life who love me a mechanism for showing me (which they do, and it’s overwhelming and leaves me bursting with love).

Most of all, my Lupus Card has given me the excuse to be kind to myself. When I look at it closely, the fine print clearly states: I’m exactly where I need to be in every moment, and each moment I have is another opportunity to chase Love, Understanding, Patience, Universality, and Silence. And each will bring me closer to the path that’s meant for me.

Borrow my card to tackle what’s left on your “to do” list. And relax into the happiness and health you deserve this holiday season.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday.