Setting boundaries and finding balance in life with cystic fibrosis

When we're younger, we try to do it all, but that's not sustainable

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by Jennifer Bleecher |

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They say hindsight is 20/20. Now that I’m in my 50s, I can reflect on my younger years and realize that I was trying to do too much.

I was spinning all of the plates in the air and trying to fulfill every role that came my way: mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, breadwinner, nurse, accountant, dog walker, handyperson, seamstress, house cleaner, chef, taxi driver, and on and on. And let’s not forget that other thing: I was living with cystic fibrosis (CF), a progressive chronic illness.

I won’t be so bold as to say I never dropped any of those plates. In fact, I look back now and realize how much energy I wasted trying to keep up with my healthy peers. The pressure I placed on myself to do all of these things was a heavy burden. I see now that it was an unfair comparison, because my healthy peers didn’t have the taxing and time-consuming role of managing CF.

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No one gave me special treatment, and I was determined not to use my CF as an excuse. I believed it was just my lot in life, so I pushed myself to keep up.

I see now that I was out of balance and had no boundaries in place to protect my physical, mental, and emotional health. I was squeezing CF into my busy daily routine and not giving it the extra time it needed. Chronic illness exacts a toll on its own, and without balance or boundaries, it can set you up for failure.

Time to change

When I finally came to terms with this reality, my lung function was already failing at 26%. I was 44 years old. In response, I stopped working full time. I let go of most of the spinning plates. I used the extra energy to care for my exhausted body, mind, and spirit.

I gave myself permission to focus on me, which was a new concept. My life slowed down considerably. When I learned to go at my own pace instead of comparing myself with others, there was less stress in my life.

I learned to watch nature outside my window instead of scrolling through social media on my phone. I listened to music during the day instead of watching TV. I started listening to my body for its needs of food and rest instead of watching the clock. I took time to give my body more of what it needed. I became much more present in my own life instead of filling my day to the brink and rushing through it.

I started counting my blessings and being grateful for the small things, which helped to take the focus off my limitations. I reconnected with my faith and found a deeper relationship that helped ward off my fears. I felt happier and laughed more, despite my health being at its worst point in my life.

I scheduled time with people, both when receiving visitors at home and when meeting with people online. I limited the visits to one or two a week so as not to exhaust myself. I noticed, felt, and listened to everything around me, which helped me realize how much I’d been missing in pursuit of what our society calls “normal” and “successful.”

I realize that not everyone has the luxury of being able to slow down life to this extent. I didn’t actually choose to do it; CF forced me to. In hindsight, I’m grateful that it happened because now I know about balance and boundaries, how important they are, and how they can help to protect my health. I only wish I’d realized it earlier. But now I know.

How do you find balance in life with CF? What boundaries do you have to protect your physical, mental, and emotional health? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today 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 Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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