This Past School Year, I Had to Prioritize Self-care

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Hello, readers! I’m so glad to be back with you all. I realize that I suddenly vanished from my column last fall, but now that the school year is finished, I’ve returned.

This past year of teaching was the hardest one I’ve experienced, and I had to make some tough decisions to be able to focus on self-care. Unfortunately, temporarily giving up my column was one of them.

Going into the last school year, many believed that life was returning to normal, and that COVID-19 was in the rearview mirror. I don’t have to tell anyone that, of course, that’s not what happened. When the delta variant came roaring to life right before school started, dashing everyone’s hopes, teachers and students alike were immensely frustrated.

On top of that, my school lost a history teacher one week into the school year, meaning I had to pick up an extra section I really didn’t have time for. My year went from looking bright to immensely stressful and overwhelming in a matter of days.

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a summer break | Main graphic for column titled

A Little Bit of Self-care Can Go a Long Way

One thing I know for sure in dealing with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is that stress and anxiety can make my symptoms much worse. I spent most of the fall absolutely exhausted, which is by far one of my toughest EDS symptoms to manage. My massage therapist, whom I see every other week, told me she hadn’t felt me as sore as I was in years.

Fall is typically my busiest time of year, as my full-time job is helping high school juniors and seniors with their post-graduate plans. I also live and work on a small horse farm, and horses require daily care, regardless of how you feel. And I write my column, through which I enjoy connecting with fellow EDS warriors.

I’m known for being incredibly stubborn. One way I often mentally manage my EDS is by simply ignoring it. But sometimes, I reach a point where I have to make some concessions. Halfway through the fall, I was so frustrated, tired, sore, and anxious that something had to give. The only place where I really had the leeway to make that happen was with my column.

I’ve learned over the years that prioritizing self-care isn’t selfish, but necessary. Still, I resisted pausing my writing. I would think about it, then push through anyway. “Quit” isn’t really in my vocabulary, and giving in felt like I was letting EDS win.

I’ve since learned to reframe that idea, because everyone has their limits. Mine might be partly due to EDS, but for someone else, it could be the result of family obligations, school, or other personal constraints.

Acknowledging that I needed a break didn’t mean my EDS was in control. Rather, by recognizing it and finding a way to mitigate the circumstances, I was actually preventing EDS from running my life. And that’s probably the best outcome I could hope for.

Note: Ehlers-Danlos 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 Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.


susan leibler avatar

susan leibler

I too have EDS. Among dozens of inconvenient and painful symptoms, fatigue is at the top of my list. I sleep 10+ hours per night, plus I need a one-and-a-half to two hour nap daily. As I age, I find my symptoms to be more & more prevalent & frequent. That in itself causes me more stress. And around & around we go! Good luck to you.


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