This Year, I’m Finding Balance and Appreciating the Quiet

Sometimes life allows for calm and normalcy

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by Allison Ross |

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Those of you who have followed my column for at least a year might recall my annual January tradition, called Hibernation. I treat it as a mental and physical reset, and eagerly look forward to it after the bustle of the holiday season. I began Hibernating in 2016 and have held fast to the principles of rest, solitude, and introspection every year since.

Strangely, this year I don’t need one.

Listening to my instincts, I find myself energized and enjoying a balanced headspace. Much of this has to do with the wonderful people in my life. Other important factors are that my job, mental health, and financial profile are more stable than a year ago.

But the question remains: Why am I not more tired?

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Usually, work and social plans in December drain me, so by January I’m often exhausted and depressed. I try to counteract that with plenty of sleep, hot tea, and other self-care rituals that nourish the body and the spirit. I watch a TV series or two, and do a lot of cooking.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to plan for the future. If my health is under control and my schedule is calm, I can make appointments, study my medical charts, exercise more, or stash away items that will help next time I fall ill with seasonal germs. Then, if I do get a cold or flu (which inevitably happens once or twice this time of year), I’m better prepared to handle it and recover quickly.

All of that still applies this year, but I’m simply choosing not to isolate myself. It’s a decision that allows for more enriching social connections than last winter, without losing the “take a breath” spirit of Hibernation.

Words from a few key people resonate when I’m on the edge of understanding myself. Over lunch, a girlfriend studying psychology found this January situation intriguing. She encouraged me to redirect the unexpected surplus of energy instead of forcing myself into a space I don’t need.

Another friend echoed this sentiment. “Yes! You could just fill your life with positivity instead of shutting down.”

After all, I realized later, isn’t that why we fight every day to overcome the symptoms of our disease? If a cure isn’t attainable, remission is the next best thing. And even for patients whose symptoms won’t let up, a better quality of life is the ultimate goal, both daily and long-term.

So maybe I’ve found myself inhabiting that place, and after decades of turbulence it’s just unfamiliar. It’s a little weird to think that maybe there’s nothing I need to be concerned about today. No lab tests. No irritating symptoms. No reason that I can’t move around and be peak productive instead of holding back just in case.

A boring patient

Stasis is a beautiful thing. I was reminded of this at my last checkup with my vasculitis specialist.

“This visit is going to be the same as last time,” I told her. “I have absolutely nothing to report.”

My doctor grinned. “Well you know we have to go through all the conventional steps anyway,” she said, before asking the customary questions: Any recent pain? Changes since our last meeting? Then she checked in with various body systems. She dismissed me after only a few minutes, remarking that a boring patient is her favorite kind to have.

The pendulum swings wildly after a chronic diagnosis. Everything feels chaotic, then afterward — if we’re lucky — the disease settles for a while. A relapse means we return to that unstable edge, then before we know it we’re doing OK again. It’s mental whiplash that’s hard to get a grip on, even after years of experience with it.

Nowadays, for me, the pendulum is resting squarely in the middle of the two extremes. There’s nothing worrisome about my health, but there’s also nothing notable. It just is. I’m doing fine. I can breathe.

So this month, I’m reframing my attitude toward the challenges of living through January. Rather than “dull,” it’s “quiet.” Instead of “boring,” it’s “restful.” And in the absence of a true Hibernation, I’m acknowledging that sometimes life does allow for calm and normalcy, and I’m not about to take that for granted.

Today’s column might not hold a grand, inspiring takeaway. Instead, it’s quiet ruminations with a dollop of gratitude. I hope those of you still struggling to attain stability can find some hope in my writing. And for those who are in remission, I’m sure you are as thankful as I am. Peace!

Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.


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