Banishment – When doing too much becomes too much

breathe

Was I shut away in a tower like Rapunzel?

No, I was lovingly banished to the sofa for doing too much!

I need to go back in time with my story to be able to go forward in time to what we were doing on Sunday and why I ended up doing too much.

Ten years ago we renovated our house.  When I say renovated I do not mean the usual decorating you do when you move into a house to make it a home, this was the bricks and mortar, plasterboard and plaster, plumbing and electrics type of renovation.  Most rooms were stripped back to the original 1850s stone walls or the 1970s brick rebuild.  At one point you could stand in our kitchen, look up through the joists of the first floor, and see right to the felt on the underside of the roof.  We even had to walk 40 feet across the garden to the outside tap for running water for a while.  All this was done over our first winter here, for most of which we had no central heating until it was fully installed around the February time.

We worked tirelessly, day in and day out, doing 12 – 14 hour days to make the place habitable. It was considerably hard work, it was exhausting, and it was probably one of my biggest challenges in life. It was great though, so much I learnt.  We did absolutely everything ourselves except for the kitchen and kitchen door, the damp course, and the plastering. We built walls, plumbed 2 bathrooms and a cloakroom, fitted electrics and central heating, laid new floors upstairs, reinstated door frames, hung doors, tiled walls and floors, the list goes on.  It was probably one of the best experiences in my life, and probably the closest I will get to building my own home.

The house was eventually finished nearly 8 months later and we began to unpack and enjoy our new home.

New years eve 2008, we got a new addition to our family. A one year old rescue dog. She would stay in the kitchen whenever we were out and we never had any problems with mess or chewing. However she started to hate being confined to the one room so began to chew the doors in a frantic bid to escape and protect the rest of her home when we were not there. This was about 5 years ago.

I wanted to see who was out front and the door fell apart when I nudged it!

After we figured out the message that the dog was trying to tell us we began to leave the doors open all of the time.  Since then we have lived with extensive chew damage to the doors. It didn’t really bother us much as they were rarely closed and the side with the damage was not visible when open. We also never found a set of French doors that we both liked, or would fit the gap without too much cutting down as our doors are very much shorter than most. That is until last week. At long last a set of doors that fitted what we were looking for.

On Sunday, my husband and son started to fit them and I helped a little bit – mainly by directing from a chair in the kitchen with my foot up on another chair, sitting outside and sanding the doors down once cut to size (I love sanding and I was not going to give over this job), and cleaning the old handles ready to go on the new doors.

Just doing this little bit towards the doors left me completely wrecked. Not the “Oh I have done a bit of manual work” kind of tired but the “I have been doing manual work for days without a break” kind.

The tiredness with that satisfying ache and glow of achievement, the kind of feeling I got during the renovations that kept me going day after day wasn’t the problem, although I did have some of that feeling. What was the problem was the severe pain and exhaustion that comes though living with a chronic pain condition, or in my case two, and wanting to be involved in something that I knew I had the skills to do but my body would not let me fully participate.  Just doing what I did left my body in tatters.  There are really no words to properly describe the feelings and emotions my mind went through, and also the pain and fatigue my body went through, however I will try.

My body felt like it was being squeezed in a vice, the pain of this is like the worst flu you have ever experienced – throbbing, aching, restless, relentless; the pain in my foot felt as if someone was wringing it like a dishcloth, whilst freezing it in a bucket of ice, and at the same time burning my bones with a hot iron! Then on top of that there is the tension headache and violent nausea you get with being in so much pain.  Plus the feelings of hopelessness, inability, waste of space, useless…

If you have ever experienced terrible long-term pain you will know how all of the above kind of feels. I was wishing the pain away, as I usually do, wanting the hurt to stop!  I so wanted to carry on like my husband and son were doing, and I so much wanted to do more.  I should have been able to, I had done so before!  Why should I not be able to do now, when I could back then.

It was because of the pain and fatigue that I was banished to the sofa with a couple of blankets, a soft pillow, and lots of love.  They only banished me for my own good, to be able to recover some of those magic spoons that disappear at the blink of an eye if you lose control of them for a while.

Let spoon collecting commence

A short while later – well about an hour maybe or more – I was able to let down my hair and escape from the tower to help with final stages of hanging the doors.  When I say helped, I gave my opinion on why one was causing a lot of bother and wouldn’t close properly, so that my husband could make minor adjustments.

Hey presto with a bit of magic fairy dust, in other words a lot of blood (yes there was blood – lots of it at one point that I had to practice using my first aid skills), sweat and hard work – there were no tears (thank goodness) – I now have a new set of French doors hung and they look great.  They will look even better once varnished and they have the handles on them.

The only problem now though is that I am looking at the rest of the doors in the house and my mind is wanting to change them, my body however is saying “nah too much hard work”.

Sunday made me realise a few things

1.  I can still contribute to work like this although I will suffer hard for it after, i.e. I have spent most of Monday either in bed or on the sofa recovering.

2.  If we were renovating the house now it would take 8 years and more, not 8 months with the way my body hurts and needs to shut down if I do too much.

3.  We did very well to keep going day after day for long hours when we renovated the house.

And the biggest, which I have known all along however I want to tell the world!

4.  I am lucky to have a fabulous husband and son who do so much, and keep on going when I no longer can.

The next bit is going to sound quite harsh!  Yesterday I felt a failure for having to lie down half way through the job.  I felt disgusted with myself because I was not able to do what I used to be able to do and had to leave my husband and son to it (those who know me personally will know how strongly independent I am and that I enjoy doing things like DIY, I get totally frustrated when I can’t do something).  In one word I felt useless!

Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless - Thomas A Edison

Today though, I realised that if I had of carried on I would have made myself ill for days rather than maybe just a day (I can’t say for certain as today has not ended and I am still feeling very tired and sore), I achieved absolutely loads considering the pain, I found ways around being able to do things with my disability that reduced the strain on my body, I did kind of pace myself by ensuring I was sat with my foot up to keep the swelling down, and the biggy – I succeeded in giving it a go rather than just sitting there and doing nothing at all.  My body may be weak through the pain and muscle wastage these days but I am strong in my mind and will never give up trying to do things!

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