Level-Up: Part 20
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.
I said in my video last week that I wanted to take those first couple of train journeys that weekend because it had been a bad seven days. I was concerned that if I didn’t end the week on a massive positive I’d drag a bad week into the next. I needed a marker for that week that would override all the tough stuff when I looked back on it. It definitely served its purpose. I also said that some of that fatigue would probably ebb into this week because you can’t just turn it off when you flip the calendar over. I was right.
I really struggled this week. I don’t regret those train journeys in the slightest. They’ve left me excited that there’s a possibility I might be able to regain some independence and travel alone, even if not that regularly. But the excursion certainly added to my tiredness. By Wednesday I was so exhausted that all I could do was cry. I had to put my work down, whether I wanted to or not, and properly rest my body and my mind. I had to just let my friends and family hug me, and let them tell me what I already knew: that fighting my body would only make things worse and that it’s not weakness to stop for a while, breathe, heal and let people look after me a little bit. I felt like I was burdening them, but I was on empty and didn’t know what to do with myself.
Thursday and Friday became rest days and much as I felt the need to be busier, I had to concede that doing so little was a relief.
I love a nice sit down as much as anyone. Sitting down is great! But what’s always difficult is the lack of choice that’s come along with this illness. I want to be able to choose a lazy day, not be forced into it. Much in the same way that I didn’t necessarily want to be rushing around Christmas shopping, I just wanted the option to do so. The envy comes from having your choices taken away and having to hand them over to something you can’t even see, but never leaves you.
When I was discussing stress management with my GP a few weeks ago he had directed me toward some fantastic self-help leaflets, asking me to read through them to ascertain where my emotions were settling. We both agreed that it was with stress and we talked through something the leaflet touches on: Type A and Type B people. Here’s the list of characteristics…
While I had some ticks in the B column, we agreed that on the whole I was a Type A person. Type A people are driven to achieve and become frustrated when they can’t or, in my case, when something holds them back from reaching a goal. My health knocks me off my perch every day, and that really frustrates me. It feels unfair and while the way I deal with that unfairness is much better than it was pre-counselling, he pointed out that my need to succeed is just a part of my personality and would probably always be present to some extent. The real skill, he said, is in knowing you’re a Type A and recognising when you’re letting ambition get the better of you. Next week I’m going to put a quote from Edmund Burke above my computer in the hope that it’ll put a verbal hand on my shoulder when I’m getting annoyed that I can’t read what’s on the screen because the words appear to be swinging back and forth across the monitor.
“Ambition can creep as well as soar.” – Edmund Burke
The most comforting thing about this week, after the fact that I’ve got lovely friends and family who’ll always look after me if I ask, was reading this leaflet on the Vestibular Disorders Association website. It’s a short but extremely helpful leaflet on internal conflict in vestibular disorders; the difficulties in managing what you feel you are and what you feel you should be. Here’s a section from it that really resonated:
I regularly feel that I’m being lazy. It’s often why I push myself harder than I should. And the brain fog drives me insane when I can’t think or sometimes even speak clearly. But I know why it happens, and knowing that it’s incredibly common for everyone dealing with similar illnesses is a huge comfort. The leaflet goes on to say that vestibular patients can squander energy on meaningless tasks in order to feel a sense of achievement. Over time I’ve become much better at deciding which tasks or events I should save my energy for, and sometimes that means letting people down or saying no. But it is necessary. This week, in trying not to let myself down, I threw every ounce of energy I had out until I crashed. Next week, I’ll have to try a little harder at doing less. Which admittedly sounds like an oxymoron, but I think you get my meaning. If I redefine my definition of success to include resting, I can’t lose. Technically. Believing that resting is success may take a little longer to sink in.