Level Up: Part 43
I began this week feeling sorry for myself. There is no other way to describe it. I had a cold, I was grumpy and I was starting to fall into that feeling that the world was running away without me. I was just stuck in a broken body and everyone else was having a marvellous time. At least, that’s how it feels when you get into that funk. Boo-hoo! Poor me! And so on.
I hate that trap, because I used to get caught in it all the time. Not so much anymore. Like so many of the improvements I’ve made this year, when blasts from the past try to muscle their way in again and I don’t manage to chokeslam them down swiftly, they’re even tougher because I’ve forgotten how damaging they used to be when I was entrenched in them every day. Sometimes I get bored of myself and start to feel as though all I am is a disability inhabiting a body. I inevitably start thinking that if I’m this tired of myself, everyone else must feel that way about me too. And that’s just one of the ways chronic illness can take a juicy stab at your self-esteem.
Thankfully, I managed to remind myself how far I’ve come just in the last year alone. Not even counting the three and a half frightening and confusing years that came before the time I started making the double effort to manage the illness better. So who knows how much more I’ll be able to do a year from now? Putting it into a ‘long game’ perspective made a difference. It doesn’t make the restrictions I have now any less frustrating or lonely, but looking back there is real proof that with time I can have more freedom than I have now. Telling myself that there are lots of people who have to pass on things for financial reasons or family commitments made it easier too. It tempers the envy.
Thursday I was so dizzy and wobbly I only managed to keep my evening meal in my stomach. It was one of those days where my body dictated what I did. And bloody hell did it dictate. It eased off by Friday but a day where it felt like I’d been shaken by the shoulders for 24 hours left me pretty wiped out. I did go out for a couple of things on Friday but the pavement felt like it was made of trampoline elastic, so walking wasn’t the most fun. Yesterday, I felt like I needed something to be proud of, so I made something happen to end the week on a better note.
I wanted to go into the city centre, shop in Boots (the actual store where my illness first started), slowly make my way down the street, grab a coffee and then come home on the train. This was a tall order to say the least. I was still lacking energy after Thursday’s puke-fest, it was raining heavily and the whole thing seemed out of reach. But after a little chat I realised I could break it down into pieces. Any one of them alone would be a big achievement by themselves, with any combination of two or more a nice bonus. I kept referring to them as small achievements. But I was reminded that they’re actually a big deal. I have an illness where the symptoms fluctuate day by day. Just because I managed something one day, it doesn’t mean I can do it the next. Repetition is, in fact, more impressive than doing something once and crossing it off the list as no longer important. I decided to give it a try.
I got my taxi to drop me as close as it could to the street entrance of Boots, I walked across, went in, grabbed a basket and made my way to the very spot the first big dizzy spell happened. The one that changed my life forever. I’ve been there before, but always with someone else. Never alone. I wanted to stand there by myself and say, “I can do this now. You won’t go away, but you won’t control what I do either.” Here it is. That’s the spot.
From there I tried to do some shopping, which was pretty tricky. It was extremely busy, the lighting was making me woozy and there was so much to look at I got disorientated by the visual stimulation. I sat on make up counter stools a few times. Once I felt able to stand again I went and had a chat with one of the ladies at a make up counter I was buying something from. After a while the floor was starting to feel very uneven, so I asked her to put my shopping through the till so I could head off. I tried exiting via the indoor shopping centre, but as soon as I stepped out into the sea of Saturday shoppers someone bumped me out of their way. I decided heading back through the shop and toward the street was the better option.
I rested some more on the seats near the pharmacy counter before heading out again, then slowly made my way down the street, looking in shop windows and wondering all the way if I had the energy to shop in any of them while they were heaving with folk avoiding the rain. I eventually stopped at WHSmith. I used to go in there a few times a week to plunder their overseas magazine section. For the sake of nostalgia I popped in and grabbed a copy of American Glamour. It was just by the door near the express lane, so I knew I wouldn’t get caught out standing in any long queues. Buying it brought on a strange but lovely feeling of déjà vu.
I was starting to feel very weary at this point. I hadn’t started with much energy and it had depleted quickly. I threw myself into the Starbucks close to the train station to have a break and decide whether I had the stamina to get the train home and then walk from the station to my house.
I stayed in there quite a while trying to decide. My arms, hands and legs were badly shaking, not in a nervous way, but when I’ve been that dizzy my body goes into a mild form of shock because I’ve repeatedly felt like I’m falling to the ground. Eventually I decided to go for it. I bought a ticket, sat waiting for 10 minutes or so, then had the train take me home.
That final walk from the station to home was one of the more difficult walks I’ve had in some time. I didn’t have much juice left, so I just took very tiny steps all the way home. At which point I sat down and avoided standing up for the rest of the day. I did everything on the list. Considering how rough I’m feeling today, it maybe wasn’t wise to do it all when I was starting from such a low energy point, but I did it all the same. And as I was reminded yesterday, I couldn’t have done any of those things in the past. To have done them all is something to be very proud of, and I am.
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.