Ten Tips to Help Endure the Bad Days

Like so many teachers, I push my body until the breaking point and then collapse. Luckily I work in a European school system, which schedules shorter summer, but more frequent breaks, about every 2 months. Next week is our Vacances de Pommes de Terres, the traditional fall holiday when students used to help families with the potato harvest.

Right on schedule, I am sick again from what feels like the influenza. I wish it was the influenza; the flu has a beginning and an end. At any time my multi-system inflammatory disease flare ups like a roaring beast in my body, clogging my lungs, inflaming brain cells, burning my throat and searing my eyes.

But hey, I don’t want a pity party. I am not alone in the battle to find a cure for disease and remedy for pain. My setback is just a reminder of other friends out there, who are coping with losses, facing surgery and fighting their own battles against cancer, chronic pain, and depression.  No matter what our station in life, we are all part of the aging game.

I spend an inordinate amount of time in the dark, lying flat on my back and looking up struggling to stay positive. Here’s what helps keep me going.

  1. Don’t believe everything your doctor tells you.  YOU know your body best. When you suffer from chronic pain and fatigue, non-specific symptoms that doctors can’t always scientifically identify, you become a problem patient.
  2. Use the tools of technology to reconnect with old friends from the comfort of your couch with an iPads and Laptops.
  3. Call a sister! And I mean anyone in the broad sense of sisterhood. Most women (and some men, too) have that extrasensory sixth sense called empathy. Sometimes the best medicine is a good moan. Do what my sisters and I do.  Time the gripe. After 5 minutes complaining about our arthritis, colitis, encephalitis– we change the subject.
  4. Read! Literature is a great escape. If your eyes hurt like mine often do, listen to books on tape.
  5. Get on your knees and pray for strength to whatever higher power guides you. Then, count your blessings aloud.
  6.  Lay flat on the floor, take deep breaths, and stretch.
  7.  Throw in a load of laundry – the washing machine does all the work, you feel a sense of accomplishment
  8. Focus on someone else’s problem. Reach out to a friend, colleague, family member who is struggling with a call, email, or card.
  9. Ask your significant other to make of dinner or get carry out. Even kids can call for a pizza delivery.
  10. Remember what you do is not who you are! It’s okay to just be.

We measure our worth in dollars. How much we earn, how much we own, how much we produce, how much we accomplish, but the to do list is NEVER done, milestones to reach are endless and things to buy infinite.

In my darkest moments, when I feel so weary from the fight that I can’t go on on, I stop. I reflect on all the people who would miss me if I were no longer around. And think, oh heck, I can hang in there another day!

Posted in inspiration, relationships.


  1. Pat — What perfect timing!!! Thanks for the uplifting advice. It’s been a tough week and your list couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for following Mike’s progress, too. I’ll keep you updated on Facebook. Today not looking good. They have called in a gastroenterologist. Lets hope for the best.

    • Oh Pat, I have followed Mike’s progress on FB and hope that he starts feeling better ASAP! Even though Nat is now a doctor, I still have hospital phobia – you just need to get him home!

  2. Bravo my “sistah” friend! Hang in there and feel better. Know that “this too shall pass” and you’ll be up and about again and again…

    Always looking up!

  3. Ugh your timing is perfect for me too. Started a new grueling radiation chemo schedule on top of finding out the cancer broke my neck bone (that is somewhere beyond ouch by the way)Aarrggh. I also lay there and think of everyone I am doing this for. Very helpful.

    After a week of hospital and many angels of mercy I am feeling much better…usually.

    I also like to binge on TV DVDs….latest love is Prks and Rec.

    Hang in there sister and I will too.


    • Oh Judy, I am so sorry to hear this. Which bone broke from the cancer? I have had several whiplash injuries and chronic neck problems, so I can imagine your pain. It is so hard to keep the faith when the treatment often makes one feel worse than the illness itself. I am sending special prayers and gentle hugs your way. Courage my friend…you will beat this and be back writing soon.

  4. This is perfect, and #10 is the best. At times like that, we all need to remember that what we do is not who we are. Thanks for the reminder, and I hope this bout passes you by quickly, Pat.

  5. Your tips are a good reminder to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going! All the best to you!

  6. I’m counting my blessings and including you as one of them. Thanks for keeping us all up even when you are fighting what has you down. You are an inspiration to us all and filled with good advice. Yes, that time of year again for your flu symptoms to appear. Weird isn’t it? But then it seems to me that your bouts are getting better than what I remember them to be a decade ago. Something’s got to be working. Take care my friend.

    • Oh yes, as you remember Nov. is my bad month, but with all the support here and out in cyberspace, I can’t stay down for long. Even though you moved off the continent years ago, I am grateful that you remain only a phone call away. Thanks for your support, Tinie.

  7. Aw, you are a powerhouse within a body that lets you down at times. Your spiritual strength far outweighs the rest, and this is what keeps you inspiring us all and exciting those Chat kids. Tragedies have hit my own family, but you remind me that our health is always our wealth. A wonderful quote I fall back on in times of need is that when you are at the bottom of the deep, dark well, if you look up, you can still see the light. Spiritual hugs and courage to you sister Pat xx

    • Absolutely, health is wealth. Hope you and your girls are happy and healthy! Sure miss seeing you on a day to day basic, but always appreciate your long distance hugs. I know that you face so many daily battles in your professional and role as a mom, so take good care of yourself FIRST and then tackle the world.

  8. You are awesome, Pat. I started following your blog the first time I read about how you persevere in spite of some challenges. I think at the time you said you couldn’t go out in the daytime, only at night, due to the sunlight bothering your system. And I thought, Jesus! This woman is a titan! I have felt very close to you ever since. As I read the comments from your readers, many of whom suffer also, I feel better about my own afflictions and fears, because I’m not alone. If I wake up between 2 and 3 tomorrow morning with the usual dark thoughts, I’m going to channel you. Thanks, and love, sistah.

    • You are never alone! If you wake up at 3 a.m. there, it will be noon here, so just imagine me up zapping dark thoughts as I send good vibes and sunshine from Switzerland to jump start your day on the west coast. One of the best things about blogging is connecting to kindred spirits who strengthen us from afar.

  9. No one inspires me like you do, Pat. Your fighting spirit and inner strength along with your ability to truly appreciate the blessings in life inspite of your personal challenges is amazing. You’ll never know how many people you have touched with your example of courage, resiliency and faith, but clearly you have. Keep on fighting and BELIEVING. Love you, Sissie.

  10. You are so amazing Pat-truly an inspiration! Your words brought me to tears, not because I feel pity for you but because I feel such admiration for your courage and fight in the midst of all the darkness you have had to endure. Your points are spot on for doing what you need to do. Your positive energy is a source of light to me and I can see from the comments I am not alone. Keep shining my friend and Yes, by all means, keep hanging in there. Sending healing hugs across the ocean. xoxo

    • I know you know, Kath as you have fought so many of your own health battles. I feel lucky we found each other out in cyberspace to give one another a virtual “pat” on the back during those rough times. Like your guest blogger said on your latest post, writing has become “an obsession and a balm” to keep me going in the face of obstacles.

      • How true, Pat. Madeline really shows us the way to healing through our words.Her loss is unimaginable and her story is riveting and yet so hopeful. I’m so happy we have all found one another to keep us strong for our journey. Love these “virtual ” hugs {{{}}}

  11. Pat – you are amazing to process your disease in a positive way. There is no question you give sooo much to your family and friends. You would not only be missed, a life without your thought, your caring, and your love would be a loss for us all. Thanks for enduring. You are a truly special woman who makes all our lives richer.

    • Thanks, Jill, this means a lot especially coming from you. It should, however, come as no great surprise…you helped instill that fighting spirit on the basketball court and I just carried those lessons with me into each new challenge!

  12. Pat, I know just what you mean. I have a back that flattends me every once in a while. Sitting, standing, or lying flat do not help. It takes six weeks regardless.
    When I was reduced to sleeping in a chair, I read all of Jane Austen. It was the only literature that i could focus on.WhenI ran out of Austen, I turned to rereading Jane Eyre. This time I got a whole new perspective on Jan Eyre as an early feminist. Keep gestting well! I am praying for you.

    • So nice to hear from you, Dian, especially since I know you can relate to back pain – the curse of the modern times! I spend a lot of time in my reclining chair, too. Loved your idea of reading through all the classics to feel inspired! I think I will dust off The Jane’s during my next flare up. Hope you have recovered.

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