When all else fails, eat cake and be merry.
I haven't had the best of weeks this week. I have been feeling something shocking. It's the worst week I've had since stopping work. Fatigue has been feral and I've barely managed to do the basics.
I've been trying to work out where I went wrong and why it is that I'm feeling so terrible this week. I don't think that I've physically overdone things, although my body is stating otherwise. I can usually cope with a fair bit of moderate activities, and I'm pretty good at predicting what is too much. But sometimes chronic fatigue doesn't make any sense. You seem to be managing well... and then from out of nowhere it hits and knocks you for six. And there's not much you can do about it.
My exercise physiologist has given me tools for figuring out causes of flare ups and set-backs and strategies to help manage them, but this week, these strategies have failed me. For the first time following this graded exercise therapy program, I feel like a failure. I feel like I've lost control, and I am frustrated.
At the beginning of this week I felt relatively great, so I went out for lunch and saw a movie (Pitch Perfect) with a friend. I really enjoyed it. No walking around, just a nice relaxing afternoon out- and yet I feel like I've run a marathon. This illness is STUPID and seriously messed up. I've felt far better after an hour of shopping.
From there everything just went downhill. It was kindly pointed out to me on my facebook page (thanks Naomi!) that it was probably sensory overload that triggered the fatigue- the big screen, following the story line, the paying attention to and processing everything said for two hours without breaks has obviously affected me greatly, and much more than I expected it to.
According to my exercise physiologist this is a cognitive trigger. If I haven't physically pushed myself too hard, cutting back on exercise isn't the solution. While I did feel wiped out, I was happy to try and go full steam ahead with the exercise for this week.
Wrong move. After ten minutes of doing step aerobics the day following the movie, I gave up and have been struggling since. After that workout I did feel as though I'd physically overdone it which is weird considering I've been doing much more exercise than that for months.
Other than exercise and the occasional shopping trip, nothing that I've done really stands out and indicates to me that I've done too much too soon. I've been following everything to a tee, and I've done very well at pacing and resting.
The aching in my legs, the dizziness, the nausea and the exhaustion just from going up the stairs are all signs that I've overdone it. But how?
I know I've been feeling more upset these last couple of weeks which is totally normal given the circumstances. Maybe this hasn't helped things. Depression does affect you physically, but apparently emotional triggers aren't a good reason to pull back on exercise either.
I do believe that too many hot and humid days are also to blame for bringing on this flare. The weather has thrown a hard punch, and my body has buckled. Sometimes the heat makes the fatigue worse to the point that all I can do is flop onto the couch and watch tv. Exercising on 35°C days with CFS? Sorry, no can do.
Maybe all these factors combined have just caused my body to shut down. Usually I can sit down and work out 'ok, I've done a bit too much walking around the shops, I'll pull back on activities for the next few days... I think I've been stressing a bit lately and doing too many things that are mentally draining, I need to do better at pacing and focus more on relaxing and switching off.' This time though, I can't work it out. I've done meditation every day, I've tried to do things that I love and take my mind off things, but it hasn't helped me feel any less terrible. I am at a loss. It's obvious to me now that I do have some issues and questions to work through with my exercise physiologist.
I have freaking CFS and maybe I'm feeling so rotten because that's just how this illness goes. I've tried my best to avoid and limit the impact of triggers, but sometimes what you do, or don't do, won't soften the blow. Medical professionals don't have all the answers no matter how specialised they are.
Yes, I didn't do very well with exercising this week. Whatever.
Yes, I still haven't been able to finish my christmas shopping. Whatever.
Yes, I only left the house once. Whatever.
I am so over this absurd illness. It's exhausting trying to fight it. It's weeks like these when I wonder if this whole graded exercise thing will work for me. I start to doubt how much I thought it had helped me so far. The negativity creeps back and I feel that there is no way out of this black hole.
Some weeks all you can do is admit defeat, put your head in your hands, have a good cry and then go and cut yourself a slice of chocolate mud cake.
You win for now CFS, you win.
Do you like my new caricature? Adorable, no?