I’m writing today from a very foggy place. I have to concentrate really hard when I consider what day it is, what the date is, and when someone asks me questions it takes an unwarranted amount of time to answer. This is my 3rd day in bed, and as much as I thought today would be better since I literally slept until 6 pm yesterday and fell back asleep at 9 pm for the night– I’m still not feeling much more alive. Luckily, my mom and I are still holding down the fort on rich people island. One of the worst parts of being in a full-blown crash is how isolated it feels. Luckily at this residence, my room has huge windows and an amazing view, so while I was only awake 3 hours yesterday, at least I had nice things to look at.
I know to an outsider this seems ridiculous. And I’m sure there are people out there thinking “You’re simply sleeping TOO MUCH, and that’s why you’re so tired!!!” If I had a nickel…. It’s very hard to explain what my body feels like amidst a crash, and this one is one of the worst I’ve had in a long time. I think it was Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and longtime CFS sufferer who said “Calling it ‘tired’ is like calling the atomic bomb a firecracker.” The only reason I got out of bed yesterday was to go to the bathroom and to take medicine. My mom tried to wake me up a few times and get me moving, but the thought of being upright nauseated me. Finally at 6, she made me drink a huge class of orange juice and eat toast and eggs so my body wouldn’t be running on empty. While I ate we watched a show on the science channel about the science of memory, dreams, and what makes us who we are, which was pretty mind-blowing. But by 9 I had fallen asleep again. I remember really really wanting to brush my teeth last night but standing that long just wasn’t going to happen, so I skipped.
Beyond the ridiculous fatigue are other symptoms that have been difficult to find relief to. I’ve had a non-specific pain radiating throughout my body, kind of like my bones are aching, that did not respond to pain killers. I’ve had a headache for a few days that is not a migraine but won’t go away does not respond to regular meds. Today at least the pain has let up and the headache has improved, but that heavy, wet-blanket fatigue hasn’t gone anywhere yet. When I woke up around 9 this morning, I sat up slowly in bed just to have my heart race and beat loud in my ears followed by a dash of dizziness to seal the deal. Good morning! God loves you!
The last symptom I’ll share, because we’re having so much fun here, is one of the most bizarre. I have this extreme sensitivity to sound that at times turns me into a crazy person. When I first became sick at age 9 this was one of my first and most jarring symptoms. Things like a hair-dryer, vacuum, or even the neighbors lawnmower were suddenly somehow painful, almost unbearable. I am noticing now that when my symptoms get bad, this sensitivity becomes heightened. It isn’t just loud noises either. For instance if someone leaves the laundry room door open with the washer or dryer running, I basically can’t relax or think straight until it’s closed. If someone is playing the radio in the car and there is static in the background, I feel like my head is about to explode until we switch the station. And it usually happens in the middle of someone telling a story that the sound of static becomes so overwhelming it’s all that I can hear, often causing me erupt in an erratic verbal explosion like “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN SOMEONE TURN OFF THE FREAKING RADIO?! I FEEL LIKE I’M ON CRAZY PILLS!!!!” And then everyone looks at me like I’m on crazy pills. But in my brain, the sound is the equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. I’ve found that many people with CFS have at least one of their senses which is painfully heightened. For my mom it’s her sense of smell; one whiff of the wrong perfume and she can get an instant migraine. Don’t we sound like a bucket of fun!? We are.
On day 3 in bed, I was mulling over the last week in my head, trying to piece together the puzzle of what-in-God’s-name happened to land me in bed this long feeling like I was hit by a cement truck and then rolled over by it once or twice. There are a few possibilities and I’m pretty sure it was a combination of all of them which created the perfect storm, but one in particular: I pushed myself for too long. Since my family is rarely all together in the same city, I hate to miss out on anything when we are. My brothers are two of my favorite people–they’re a lot of fun. They’re also two of the most hyper people I’ve been around. They were very go, go, go while they were here, and since I love to be around them, I tried to go, go, go with them everywhere they went until I die die died. It’s the same lesson I’ve had to learn before that I will continue to learn until I get it right; I have to limit myself. No one will do it for me, mostly because no one else has to pay the price of overdoing it, only I do. And I’ve overdone it so many times you’d think I’d have it down by now, but I don’t. I have to learn to say no. It does mean missing out on some things that I’d like to partake in, but the alternative is missing out on 3 days of life, and you never get those back. The doctor calls this being proactive vs. reactive. If you can sustain yourself by limiting things and paying attention to your body, you can pretty effectively avoid crashes and super-sick days. There were a couple of days last week I didn’t feel great but made the decision to go to the beach anyway, or go fishing anyway, and those anyways ended up being pretty detrimental.
Just so we’re clear, I don’t write posts like these to be depressing. I’m not doing it to complain or fish for pity. It was my goal from the start to try my best and paint an accurate picture of what life with this illness looks like. And sadly, some days or weeks, it just sucks. No getting around it. At the same time, I remind myself this won’t last. I study the things that got me here, and I thank God I have family (mostly Dr. Mom) to see me through the really tough parts. I wonder a lot how anyone would survive this illness alone, and I honestly don’t think it’s possible. Everyone I talk to in the waiting room at the specialists office has one primary thing in common; they have one person to whom they owe their life. A spouse, a parent, brother or sister, child or friend. CFS isn’t terminal. You don’t die from the symptoms. But I really can’t imagine where I’d be if I didn’t have the help of so many people in the past. Sleeping under a bridge somewhere. Keyword: sleeping.
In the light of friendship, I’d like to share the Gelpi’s rendition of one of my all time favorite songs from one of my all time favorite shows: Thank You for Being a Friend, from the Golden Girls. Luckily my brother Doug can basically play any song you ask him to on the piano, so he did me a solid. My voice is terrible so I apologize in advance, but hey, it was fun. This is dedicated to Emily and Kaitlin aka Matt Damon.
Health, Happiness, Crash and Burns