Somehow it’s easier to have a chronic illness in winter, when everyone is sitting next to a rain-streaked window with a book, or making a deep imprint in the couch cushions in front of Netflix on an early-dark evening. It’s easier than now, in the summer, when your social media is exploding with beach pictures and even the “legacy social media” of looking out your own window is filled with scenes of sprinklers and you can periodically hear the ice cream truck driving by.
The thing is, a chronic illness or serious medical condition can make it seem like you’re always looking through that window at someone else’s fun. But even if you’re not about to spring up and play paddle ball in the surf anytime soon, you can find ways to enjoy the summer. Here are three ideas. None of them are easy! In fact, it’s HARD to have fun. Sometimes it can feel like having fun takes more work than it’s worth — but that’s the trap! A health condition can tip the scale even further, making it seem like having fun is a chore. But like eating kale or doing yoga, chances are that after all is said and done, you’ll be glad you put forth the effort. (Really. Trust us. It will.) In addition to the three ideas below, we would love to hear what do YOU do to take advantage of the summer season! Let us know in the comments.
1. Get Out of the House!
If you don’t have work or school or another activity that forces you out of the house, the temptation is pretty strong to roll over in bed away from the light and see if you could get another hour or six of sleep. Once you’re finally up, wouldn’t it feel nice to spend the day binge watching HGTV shows? This first step is the hardest: Get up, get moving, get out of the house! Do whatever your condition demands, be it extra sun-safe clothing, anti-germ supplies, or wrangling your mobility equipment into the trunk and get gone! The destination doesn’t matter — take a walk, an aimless drive, have someone drop you at a coffee shop, or even hop on a bus. Just getting out of the house is a win.
2. Find Friends
It’s pretty common for people with serious health conditions to feel isolated and lonely. It can get to the point that you wonder who would want to be friends with you — someone who can’t DO anything! But if you’re feeling that way, you can be sure others are as well. On one hand, it’s depressing to think that your feelings may not be unique. But on the other hand, if other people with health conditions are feeling isolated and unwanted, doesn’t that mean you’re not alone after all? The challenge is to connect with people, either inside or outside your illness community. Like the first idea, this takes effort! It’s scary to reach out in person or online — what if you get rejected? But you know what’s even scarier? The feelings of isolation and loneliness that are the alternative. Give it a try. Reach out. Be vulnerable. Maybe you’ll even find that your illness is a way to connect with people that you might otherwise not have had a chance to meet.
What does “play” mean to you? Taken literally, play can mean games — in that case, consider any game you can play with other, real people, either in person or online. But play can also mean being playful. Play can mean being spontaneous. Play can mean being whimsical. So really ask yourself, what does play mean to you? Now, today, as the summer swirls around you, how can you find an opportunity to play?
Garth Sundem is a parent, husband, and author of books including “Real Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change”.