Today was a pretty standard sick day for me. The term “standard”, here, means “my body turns on me and I have no idea what it’s going to allow me to do or how much energy I’ll be able to expend for the next 24 hours.” It’s predictable in its unpredictability. Here’s a better idea of what that looks like.
8:30 AM: Wake up, feel dizzy, tired, but mostly functional.
10:00 AM: Get coffee with boyfriend. He walks inside to retrieve coffee because I’m feeling too weak and dizzy to pry myself from the seat in his Jeep.
11:00 AM: Sit inside, bid boyfriend farewell, dizziness subsides a little so I shower and decide to go for a walk…the walk lasts about five minutes because the sun causes more weakness and I have a headache.
12:00 PM: Feel low-energy and light-headed. I’m scared to upset my volatile stomach, so I eat a couple apple slices, and again resolve to leave the house.
2:00 PM: Didn’t leave the house. I’m starting to develop the usual stomach pain. Ruh-roh…
2:30 PM: Lunch makes stomach angry and I’m lying in the fetal position on my couch, cringing.
4:00 PM: Still on the couch. My head is spinning and all of my limbs feel heavy and sore.
5:00 PM: Decide I’m feeling a little better– start small house chores. Plan to head to friend’s birthday party later.
7:00 PM: Feel dizzy and nauseated. My sharp stomach pain is back. My body has vetoed the birthday party. I’m betting the rest of my night will involve on my couch, in bearable but unpleasant pain, accompanied by Netflix and books, and the occasional wish that I could leave the couch and make my way to the party.
Throughout a healthy week, I’ll have about two days that look like this. Throughout a sick week, there will be about four. The rest of the week, I work, spend time with friends, exercise, etc. On good days, I still have restrictions– I generally have to take more time between activities to sit and rest, I watch my diet, I keep track of my expenditure to avoid a subsequent bad day.
It’s been like this (fluctuating) for about three years now. I’m an extremely active, high energy, 4.0 student, track-running, volleyball-playing, instrument-learning, everything-always opportunist and perfectionist turned couch potato. I’ve seen, and continue to see countless doctors, none of whom can pinpoint the onset of my ailment. However, there’s a consensus that it involves adrenal fatigue, muscle pain, and digestive distress.
I sleep more, eat less, and take more medications than I used to. I have to interact with the world in different ways, but I still have a functioning body and mind that allow me opportunity and experience. On bad days, like this, I read, write, and think about the ways other people live. I’m more of an observer, now, than a doer, but that’s okay. I’m learning to be productive and valuable with the hand I’ve been dealt. On good days, most people can hardly tell I’m sick. Sometimes I can hardly tell I’m sick. “bad days” would’ve sounded crazy to me before I had one. There are millions of people around you living with illnesses you’ll never have to experience or understand. Mine is relatively mild compared to leukemia or para/quadriplegia. I’ll never understand the pain or suffering they go through. I write about my illness because I’m learning how to cultivate and assimilate myself using my handicap as a guide, rather than an ailment. I need to acknowledge the restrictions my illness places on me, and learn to work with them. I’ll never accept it, but I’ll always learn from it. I ask that you learn from it also. I’m not asking for pity, just compassion and awareness. People rarely consider situations unlike our own. Many of my “friends” have no idea I spend days bedridden, in pain. Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia are both growing, but mostly new medical concepts. Those who suffer from these illnesses need patience and tolerance. I seek to build foundations for such movement through my own experiences and attempts at growth.