Chronic Illness Catastrophe Days – How Can We Survive These?

Ok, so the title probably sounds a little more dramatic than where I’m going with this…..but maybe not!!

My regular readers will know I generally have a positive outlook on life, despite my disabling pain and crazy bone disease.

I have accepted my circumstances, I love the things I can do and I don’t stress about the things that are beyond my reach. My disclaimer to this comment is; “on most days”.

There is always an exception in every situation.

Every now and again I wake up to a “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Day”.

On those days, it’s a struggle to keep my head above water. I hate them as they are so hard to manage, no matter how much faith, hope or strength of character you may have.

These are days that happen to all of us with chronic illness and I’m on a quest to work out how best to manage them once and for all!

So What’s A Chronic Illness Catastrophe Day?

These are the days when everything comes crashing in on me. Days when pain levels are so extreme that I want to escape my body. On these days I visualise having a zip opening to let me crawl out from my skin and just have a few hours of relief. Away from pain, away from extreme fatigue.

These are the days when breathing hurts as fatigue overwhelms. These are the days when, despite my normal positive outlook, my mind wants to grab onto less than helpful thoughts. Thoughts of “I can’t” rather than “I can”, constantly shout at me.

These are the days when well-meaning comments from loved ones and friends, are misconstrued as I listen to them. My fault, not their’s. On these days even words of support offer empty comfort. The pain is just too overwhelming and constant to hear or feel anything but thunderous throbbing.


Finding A Way Through The Catastrophe Cloud

I think to a large degree we need to go with the flow on these “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Days”.

The issue is, left to their own devices, these days can quickly turn into a week, a fortnight, a month and before you know it depression has taken hold.

I think a two-day recovery plan is a good starting point to getting back on track. It’s also designed as a plan that can be re-cycled as needed.

So, let’s assume this is day one of what could potentially be a “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Cycle”.

This is the hardest day to cope with but it’s integral to make a start on a fight back plan on Day One.

Day One – “The Catastrophe Day”

  • Stop Fighting – I’m aware that sounds contradictory when we are talking about a “fight back plan” but I tend to fight against these days and push my body. That’s not what my body needs. It’s generally screaming to try to make me listen and stop. It needs rest, complete rest and I need to surrender to it.
  • Rest and Retreat – When we stop fighting, our minds calm a little and sanity begins to return. Rest and retreat means to stop, lie down, sleep if you can or just do something that helps provide a focus outside of your body. For me it means lying on the bed and writing or watching a relaxing TV show. Sometimes it means no noise at all. TV off, music off and just deep breathing in a quiet comfortable setting.
  • Test The Waters – After you’ve retreated for a couple of hours, it’s time to test the waters. Imagine dipping your toe in the ocean to see if the temperature is comfortable. This is the same concept. If you don’t want to end up in a “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Cycle”, day one needs to have a bit of movement. Slowly get up from your bed or chair, or from wherever you had retreated to and just see how you feel. If everything seems overwhelming again, return to your retreat position and try again in an hour. Once you feel a little stronger from your retreat session, it’s time to move to the next stage.
  • Re-connect – when having a “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Day” it’s hard enough connecting with ourselves, let alone others so be careful in this stage. You’re  probably feeling vulnerable and grumpy and contact with others could quickly turn into a less than positive experience. My biggest tip here is…..make a coffee, tea or your drink of choice and quietly sit and sip it while you think about reconnecting with the world. Once you are feeling a little more settled, check in on your favourite FB support group, text a special friend to say hi, or if you have family at home, engage in some light conversation. No big decisions or discussions should take place on these days.
  • Rest and Retreat again – Well Done! You’ve made wonderful progress with re-connecting. These are difficult days and not ones to ignore and push through so it’s time to rest and retreat again….until tomorrow!

Day Two – “The Recovery Day”

Day Two is an important day. You will likely wake up feeling a little better than the day before but also tired and vulnerable. It’s a day you need to move through very slowly and carefully.

  • Start Slowly – You don’t want to undo the great work you did yesterday. You need a slow start. No rushing out of bed!!
  • A “No Agenda” Day – Day 2 needs to be agenda free. The whole aim of this day is to keep your stress levels low as this helps manage pain. You need to move through the day doing things that help you stay relaxed, while spending more time upright than in bed. Lingering in bed, for too many days in a row, can affect your mental health and exasperate physical pain. Getting up on Day 2 is important to help the recovery process. Remember yesterday was the  “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Day”, today is the recovery day.
  • Self Care – If ever there was a day to indulge in a little self-care this is it. Whatever works for you within your limitations do that. Sit in the sun and get some fresh air. Have a hot shower and feel the water working on your inflamed body. Make a special lunch treat or have Uber treats deliver your favourite food. Whatever you do, today is not the day to do chores around the home or household admin tasks. If possible don’t even make phone calls that are medically related. Today is about recovering from the “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Day”.
  • Rest and Retreat again – Day 2 needs to be a short day. You’ve done so well to get up, move a little and engage in some self-care activities. You’ll still be dealing with many symptoms and issues from your “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Day”, so you can’t risk over doing things. An early night resting in bed, indulging in watching a DVD or favourite show, is a “must do”.

The Morning After

A “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Day” is a little like getting over a hangover (not that I’d know anything about that of course!!)

Day 3 will feel like the morning after a big day out. You need to still be kind to yourself but it is important to start re-connecting and re-engaging with the wider world.

If your catastrophe day is lingering, because of your pain and symptoms, Day 3 is a good time to review your mental and physical health situation. Ask yourself some basic questions;

  • Do you need to see your Dr?
  • Do you have new symptoms?
  • Do you think you can push through the day and see how you go?
  • Are you feeling depressed?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, Day 3 is action day. Make an appointment to see your Dr or Counselor. Don’t let the issue linger. Taking action will help you to feel more in control and that alone will help start you on the road to recovery.

Thankgoodness It’s Over!

Hopefully for most of us a “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Day” is just that….one day with a second day to recover.

Don’t try to push through these days. If we do, ultimately we end up in a worse state.

If your body is screaming, it’s doing so for a reason. It needs help and you are the first point of call to help it. Please listen and respond with love and care.

I hope your “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Days” are few and far between. When they do come, I hope you will know that you are not alone and they will soon pass with a bit of careful management.

Take care

Sam xx

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If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding & friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic & complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.

I’m also a Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page

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24 thoughts on “Chronic Illness Catastrophe Days – How Can We Survive These?

  1. Reblogged this on PBC Advocate and commented:
    Sam Moss is an incredibly insightful and creative blogger and advocate for those of us with chronic pain. These strategies are designed to help you improve your health and well-being by pacing yourself. In PBC, our chronic fatigue is much like living with chronic pain, it takes everything out of us and some days we only start the day with a handful of spoons to get through the day. For the few of us who have both the debilitating fatigue of PBC and chronic pain, having tools ready for these days is critical.

    With the holidays upon us, friends and family members everywhere, remember you have this resource to help you manage your Catastrophe Day(s).

    Take care,


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sam, I always try to add writing on day 2 Some of my best blogs have been written on the second day. (So have some of my worst). I do find writing therapeutic, So long as I understand that I write for myself and not others (If others like to read it, that is wonderful but i write for myself.) I always find my writing helps.

    Love your blog !!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sam, your blog is fairly new to me, but you’ve certainly got my attention. My day went downhill into catastrophe mode by nightfall. I plan to start day 1 tomorrow which, coincidentally, is Saturday in Canada. I will reconnect when I visit a friend in her new house on Monday. Your advice is sound, and I plan to take it. I agree with Rick too, about writing for oneself. Sometimes that helps me put things into perspective.

    I sure hope you are able to rest and rejuvenate as you get through this tough time. May the fatigue and pain go on vacation soon, far, far away from you. My thoughts are with you as I send my love from Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading. I’m sorry you’re joining me in a “Chronic Illness Catastrophe” day but it’s also nice to know I’m not alone. I hope the plan works for you and you are back on track by Monday. Take care xx

      Liked by 1 person

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