The human body is an incredible thing. It has the ability to stop you in your tracks and say, slow the hell down!
Many times on this blog, I have referenced the Spoon Theory. Basically, what this story does is address the difficulty in explaining what its like having a chronic illness. The woman in the story, who has lupus, explains to her friend, using spoons, how each aspect of her day requires a certain amount of energy, and how she can be left with “no spoons” by the end of the day. I often think of this story as I go through my day, wondering how much energy I’ll have if I commit to each task of the day. This week, I really ran out of spoons.
After a weekend on retreat which was relaxing and uplifting, I realized that I had only slept about 10 hours total between 2 nights. Frantically I thought of how I would make up for all this lost sleep and still get everything done that I needed to last week. Soon, I was up late doing homework, up early for other commitments, and had little time to make up for all the sleep I had lost. I tried to sneak in little 20 minute naps but it seemed as if at every turn I had something else to do, leaving little time for real rest, exercise, and stress reduction. Finally, on Thursday morning I decided to wake up earlier (again with the sleep sacrifice) to go running at the gym. After running a mere 2 miles, I went back to my room and felt like I had run a marathon. I struggled to walk around and get in the shower, I felt my face heating up, and my body was screaming for my bed. I cancelled on my commitments for the morning and weakly crawled into bed with a 101 temperature. My body was forcing me to take it easy, and I was forced to listen.
I knew that in order to rest, I would need to not only take it easy Thursday morning, but for the rest of the weekend. I cancelled some more commitments, explaining that I wasn’t feeling my best and I needed my rest, and took the time to heal. As much as I wanted to go out and enjoy my senior year, I found myself in bed early each night and making time for naps during the day. It’s weekends like this that I remember how important it is to invest in your own health… that being healthy with cf doesn’t just mean doing all of your treatments, but it means making time for rest, hydration, relaxation, and recovery. Sometimes I start to feel like a superwoman and I over-commit, not realizing that if I fill my days up with a busy schedule that this leaves little time for rest and recovery. As far as I’m concerned, doing that to yourself is just as bad as skipping your treatments. If you don’t make time to rest, it is impossible to have any real quality of life. I weigh my options and consider that going out and feeling like crap isn’t going to be very much fun so I might as well rest.
What it all comes down to is sacrifice. It’s about missing that night out, that day of work, that class… and knowing that the world won’t end if you’re not there. As hard as it can be sometimes, when you are living with a chronic illness like cf you have to constantly think about when your time to rest will be. As I found out on Thursday morning, it is impossible function if you try to do so without any spoons. Because I didn’t invest in my health at the beginning of the week, I was left crippled by a fever and exhaustion. Had I taken some time to sacrifice a late night for a good nights sleep, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten that fever all weekend.
I was telling my friend yesterday at breakfast how difficult it is to explain all of the complexities of cf. How skipping class to sleep might look like laziness, or how not going out is perceived as being lame, or how calling in sick to work feels like giving up, or how difficult it is to explain what it feels like to be completely exhausted just from being on the go all day… or from running a mere 2 miles. The website that the spoon theory is on is called “But you don’t look sick,” which is another barrier to expressing how I’m feeling. I typically function like a normal person from day to day, so sometimes it might not be apparent just by looking at me that I’m feeling like $***. (Similarly, knowing I have a chronic illness, it may not always be apparent that on some days, I feel just as good as you do, and don’t require any special treatment.)
But that’s why I have this blog! So when I feel like something needs explaining, I have a place to voice that. The more people understand, the more supportive and aware people can be! Thankfully, I have the greatest friends who understand all of my little complexities and are always sensitive to the number of naps I take 😛