Life throws so many obstacles our way. It can be easy to get caught up in it all. This means sometimes forgetting your limitations and needs until you have passed a tipping point. Add to this the general difficulties of living with chronic symptoms in a chaotic home environment… maintaining your normal flies out the window.
Many people with disabling medical conditions don’t get a lot of say in where they live. Some stay with family, others can manage independently, and some end up drifting between temporary shelters and homelessness. A few of us live with partners, friends, or strangers. But, there is no perfect place to call home. No environment is guaranteed to support us through the ebbs and flows of our medically complex lives.
The daily grind of a chaotic home tarnishes even the most idyllic place. Symptoms like noise sensitivities, allergies, fatigue, and pain are all exaggerated by the natural hum of a home. Even with meticulous planning and lots of sympathy from members of the household, it is easy to be negatively affected. Having ultimate control over your environment can be an unattainable luxury. Instead, we have to work with the accommodations and communities where we spend most of our time.
There are benefits to living with others. It prevents isolation, forcing engagement that halts too much self-examination. It can bring laughter and joy. Sharing space also ignites curiosity and brings new ideas to old problems. The negatives of living with others seem to be outweighed by the mental and emotional benefits. Of course, this is presuming that the people you live with are stable and a positive influence.
Living alone also has major upsides. You set the pace of your home. Choosing who enters and what the activities are helps limit the chance of triggers. Solitude can bring peace, healing, and wanted routine. The downsides of living by yourself are based on each person’s personality and level of symptom management. Being independent means having to do many physical activities on your own. You can also become stagnant and isolated if you don’t make a major effort to engage with people.
Chaos will find its way into any living situation. Alone or with others, there will be times when your medical issues will be dramatically worsened by the energy and surprises that happen in any home.
Having a flexible strategy for dealing with aggravation is an important part of mitigating problems that pop up. Carrying around small earplugs in a pocket can help with noise. Putting time limits on visitors who are energy drains. Knowing your refuge locations: a kitchen where you can mindlessly bake, a bedroom where you can shut the door, or a nook in a less-used corner where you can curl up and feel grounded.
Right now, my niece is crying. My pet just threw up. My phone is ringing. There is someone at the door. A neighbor accidentally knocked down part of the fence. Earlier I ate something that triggered an allergic response, now I have a rash and hives on my face. And, dinner needs to be cooked. So I went into an unused room where I am finding my moment of peace by writing. It isn’t taking much physical effort and the mental toll is negligible. I enjoy it. When I am done, I will feel better and be able to reengage with my version of chaos.