Last weekend, I had a pretty typical weekend for a 23-year-old. It was my other half’s birthday on Saturday, so we had friends around, a few drinks (nothing too wild) and stayed up to around 1:00 a.m. On Sunday, we went to visit family, leaving the house at midday, and then went for a walk around a park for about an hour in the evening.
The average person turning up to work come Monday morning therefore may feel a bit tired, but not hugely affected. After a few drinks (nowhere near enough to cause a hangover) and staying up until past midnight, you might feel a bit sleepy or even practically normal. Me? I’m really ill.
As the alarm went off at 6:45 a.m. this morning for work, I felt like a zombie. The muscles in my feet and hands had been cramping and aching all night and although I got a lot of deep sleep, I still felt like I was going to collapse. I managed to drag myself out of bed and have a wash, get dressed and take myself downstairs, all the while feeling incredibly nauseous and dizzy. I sat on the sofa until I could muster some energy to move but felt like a dead weight.
Today, I am beyond tired. I am heavily fatigued as my body can’t keep up. It’s failing me.
I struggled to walk to the tram stop to catch the tram to work, out of breath, hunched over in appearance and heart pounding. I sat at work with the muscles in my legs screaming in agony, my brain feeling fogged and confused beyond words and my stomach churning. I’m going to be sick, I think to myself.
I just wanted the discomfort to end.
I live with chronic illness. A couple of them actually, and I have some other health conditions on top of them too. Day to day, I am able to keep them well managed to a certain extent. I get to bed by 9:00 p.m. so that I get nine hours of sleep at least. I eat lots of protein, am gluten-free and count my spoons (plan my energy usage very carefully). I’ve learned what helps to manage my conditions.
But sometimes they flare up out of nowhere. I’m not always sure what causes them to get worse again for a while. I have to take time off work, stay in bed for a few days or longer and cancel all plans, concentrating on getting better. Just like when you come down with the flu for example.
And other times, like today, I know why I’m feeling so unwell. It’s because I stayed up late (although, not crazy late, as you’ve read already), had five rum and cokes on Saturday evening and dared to go for a walk on Sunday evening. I even paused every 10-15 minutes of walking to sit and rest for 10 minutes. I dared to try and do some pretty regular things that a 23-year-old should be able to do and now I’m paying for it.
How other people my age manage to do anything on weeknights or several nights in a row is beyond me. I work Monday to Friday and after each day’s work I come home and practically collapse on the sofa. Some days, I can find the energy to make dinner, tidy the house or shower. Others, I just sleep. I go to work and then sleep. Then work and sleep. And…you guessed it: go to work and come home and sleep.
And that’s what this week is going to be like, all because I dared stay up late, have a few drinks and go for a walk this last weekend. I live life with chronic illness and it’s downright difficult and unfair.
But what am I supposed to do? Never drink? Some people with chronic illness don’t, because of how rubbish it makes them feel afterward. Even though for me, when I’m a drink or two down, I feel so much more energetic and full of life. It actually makes me feel “normal” again.
Should I never socialize? Never go for a walk in the sun?
Or do I just accept that, should I want to do “regular people things,” I just have to “pay” for it afterwards?
In order to never miss time off work, I should spend my weekends just like my weekdays, and stay in and rest. No quality of life.
My health is so up and down that in the past I’ve been able to have a weekend like that and be OK for work come the start of a new working week. Sometimes it wears my body out, sometimes it doesn’t. A body is so intricately wired and all of my health conditions are linked to each other in a system known as the endocrine system, which means that when one part of that system goes awry, it has a knock-on effect and other processes go awry, too. It’s a delicate and volatile balance.
And I’m forever torn.
I refuse to live a miserable existence of limiting my ability to see friends, have fun or get out the house due to my health conditions. But at the same time, if I ignore them completely, I make myself more ill by putting too much pressure on an already struggling body.