If you have a chronic illness and the fallout from it, you know what it’s like to feel lousy.
And it’s a great thing when you have respite from the (not so merry) merry-go-round, sure. But with the blessed absence of symptoms also comes a low-level dread: When will I get sick again?
Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. But if history is an indicator, you probably will. It’s a real fly in the prescription-strength ointment. You can’t ever really be free, not really.
And so it was that a wispy-but-dark cloud settled over my head in July because Symptom A appeared and stuck around long enough to make me worry. Then (because of worry?) Symptom B appeared. “It’s nothing,” I thought, and instantly began to think of everything I might have eaten or not eaten, done or not done to make this “nothing” happen.
Chronic conditions, especially those of the intestinal variety, are particularly cruel to the psyche. Surely it’s something you’re doing — or doing wrong — that’s making your condition worse. Eat more yogurt. Don’t drink any coffee, ever. Sleep more. Don’t eat eight hours before bedtime. Meditate. You’re not meditating? Well, there’s your problem. It’s as though an intestinal disaster and the management of the leftovers could be beautifully restored if one was more virtuous, sane, well-slept. No pressure, but you’re lazy/lacking willpower/something else or you’d feel better.
Yesterday I spent the entire afternoon into the evening reading books in bed, having tea, and telling my body, “We’re cool. There’s nothing wrong. See how we’re just lounging in bed and reading like there’s nothing wrong?” This is funny, because if I am lounging in bed and reading for hours, something is for sure wrong. I’m almost pathologically productive — until I’m not.
I feel better today, I really do. I think reading and resting helped, and besides, Symptom A has been less present, on the whole, for the last week. I’m sharing about it because I know there are readers out there who also suffer from chronic illness and/or conditions and it feels right to draw open the curtain to the non-emergency, non-total-regression kind of day that is normal for so many of us. I’m not going in for an iron infusion. I don’t think pouchitis is upon me. But I felt like crud, I have been feeling like crud in this particular way, worrying like crazy about it, and I know sometimes that’s true for you, too, but it’s not enough to talk about and worry everyone, right? I know.
Tomorrow is Sunday. If you need to, and you can, even for a little while, read in bed and have tea.