Level-Up: Part 11

Every Sunday I record my health achievements and discoveries for the week here. To find out why I decided to start doing this, you can read an explanation in the first post of the series here.

This week I attended my former workplace’s Christmas party at a busy restaurant in town. It’s impossible to find the words to explain what a big deal this was. The day of the party I had planned on taking it easy to preserve energy into the night. As it turned out, I wasn’t feeling especially well, so it was an even quieter day than planned. That’s the lottery of chronic illness and particularly vestibular disorders. You never know how you’re going to feel from one day to the next. And if you suffer with bouts of rotary vertigo on top of persistent movement, which I do, your condition can turn in a heartbeat.

It happened that way in a shop this week. I was standing in a queue waiting to be served when an intense dizzy spell struck. Who knows what triggered it and made the room spin. Sometimes there’s no trigger at all. The shops were busier than usual, but my condition is just that unpredictable. It can just decide it wants to flip out for a while. I held it together until I could buy what I needed and leave, before heading for the nearest bench in front of a pub. It took a bus shelter bench and sitting on three more walls before I could get everything I needed and make it home. I was left feeling annoyed and exhausted.

I was absolutely determined that I would attend the Christmas party; not just because I’d been thinking about the rib of beef I’d already ordered, but because I’d missed the last three. I had planned on going last year when we were going to a hotel ballroom. When a last-minute hitch moved the party to a cramped and noisy restaurant, I had to pull out. At that point it was something I just couldn’t contemplate. With this the last one I’m likely to be invited to, I really wanted to go.

Despite feeling tired at the end of the day, I mustered the energy to doll myself up and headed to the restaurant in a cab.

night_out

It wasn’t at all easy. We were all tightly pushed together and the small space made it noisy. The chatter, the clink of plates and glasses, and the music being piped through the restaurant were a lot to take in and occasionally disorientating. I sometimes find multiple noises hard to separate. This, to most people, isn’t a problem. But for me noisy environments make me feel even more unsteady than usual and it makes it difficult to concentrate when I feel so dizzy. I was thankful I managed to grab a seat with arms.

Quite naturally, party atmospheres become  louder the more people drink. (We’ll come back to the torture of being forcibly teetotal another day!) I took a short break and went outside between the main course and dessert to catch some air and hopefully quell the spinning sensation I was feeling. It helped.

Despite the fact that the evening was a challenge, I enjoyed myself. It was lovely to be with my friends and to talk with them. It was nice to have a reason to get dressed up and feel pretty at night. It was great eating food I hadn’t cooked myself. And I loved that for a few hours I felt that I was doing something completely normal again.

I felt drained throughout Friday. It was like I had the worst hangover I’d had in years without touching a drop of alcohol. I had to declare it a recovery day. I could have allowed myself to get angry that I’d lost two working days to resting and recovering just so that I could have one night out. The thought certainly crossed my mind. But to do that would be to do the good time I had with my friends a disservice. It was an important night and often I have to choose between things most people don’t have to think about. It’s a bartering system with both my mind and my body. This week, I think we came to a reasonable compromise.

It’s important for people who don’t live with chronic illness to understand that when we decline an invitation or cut our attendance short, it isn’t because that’s what we want to do. Most of the time it’s because we can’t physically manage it or need to preserve enough energy that we don’t crash and burn every few days. It’s about stability. It’s about trying to make sure the balance doesn’t tip so far that you can’t get out of bed.  Nobody wants to be known as the person who never shows up. There is zero joy in being invited somewhere you know you can’t manage and having to say no when you really want to say yes. Knowing that reputation exists hurts, but having people pleased to see you when you can make it is lovely.

My list of achievements is growing and the more I do the more I want to do. One of my biggest challenges going forward will be keeping my ambitions aligned with the reality of my condition. And anyone who knows me well understands that’s no easy feat. Beyoncé has a lot to answer for!

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I just want to say a final word on how powerful music can be. After my big dizzy spell on Wednesday I felt extremely defeated. I wanted to be able to shake this illness off and have it leave me alone. I can’t do that. I might never be able to that. You have to hold on to the things that lift you back up when you fall over. I can’t literally punch the illness in the face like I want to, but I can attack it by not letting it hold me down. This is just one of the songs that’s helped me do that this week.

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