This blog post was inspired by another blog that I follow MSy Thought for the Day where the picture above had been used. It got me thinking about the simple everyday challenges that people face when living with chronic illness or in chronic pain like myself.
The saying on the picture is so true. It is only through constantly challenging myself each and every day that I am able to achieve all that I have over the last few years. The challenge may not be the physical act of scaling a rock face like the girl in the picture, however it is the same mentally, albeit the rock face when living with chronic illness usually involves challenging yourself to do the most simplest of tasks that a healthy person would take for granted – such as showering, drying hair or even just getting out of bed – all of these present their own unique challenges for people like myself, and sometimes it can feel just as physically and mentally exhausting as scaling that rock face for real.
Even with being off work sick at the moment through post viral infection fatigue, I have set myself small challenges each day, including on the days when I was in hospital. Just small and simple challenges that allow me to keep some of my daily routine, and as I am getting stronger each day I am throwing more in.
Even at my worst when I was in hospital, I could not have just lay there and slept the day away. I allowed myself more sleep, obviously, as I was very poorly, however the simple challenge I set myself in hospital was to spend quality time reading between the times when I was sleeping, slowly increasing the time I could read for before my concentration levels plummeted to the point where the words were just a jumbled mess on the page and had no correlation with the story.
Now, as I grow stronger, I am challenging myself to do a little more each day. I still get up most days before 8am – routine is important for everyone, even more so to those with chronic illness. I have not wanted to allow myself to slip back to where I was 4 or 5 years ago where life was unbearable and all I wanted to do is sleep the day away – so this in itself has been a big challenge because it can be so easy to not get up out of bed when you are poorly and even more so when you live with chronic pain. There have been some days where it is impossible to get up before 8 am. Like today, I was so exhausted after the hubby got my breakfast I could not keep my eyes open, and that is not metaphorically speaking either, they would not stay open no matter how hard I tried. I think I would have snapped matchsticks with how heavy my eyelids were. It is a terrible way to feel. Hitting you like a bus. Giving you no choice but to close your eyes. It is a forced sleep, very much like the sleeping death that overcomes sleeping beauty, she had no choice but to close her eyes and sleep after taking a bite from the poisoned apple. That is what life is like for people with chronic illness and pain, everything you do is like taking a bite from the poisoned apple – you know you will pay for it later. Or in my case at the moment, you catch an infection and it wipes you out for far longer than it would have done if I had been fully healthy to start off with.
Even on days like today, where the fatigue has washed over me like a wave yet again, I have thought of ways to challenge myself. Whether that be finding the energy to go out on my driveway and throw the ball for the dog, or taking a dander (walk) across the garden to check on the vegetable plot, or like today, my challenge was to be able to sit long enough with the lap top and write a blog post, and here I am half way through it. I couldn’t do all three in one day yet as I still exhaust very easily. I need to do something though each day, and slowly increase what I do, so that I can be strong enough to manage being back at work. Plus I am following doctor’s orders of increasing my stamina back to my pre-infection state and the only way to do this is to start adding things back in to my day that I would have done previously. I know that one blog post written does not make a whole day sat at a computer, however it is one more step in the right direction to getting back to work in the next week or two.
That is truly my challenge at the moment to be back at work as soon as possible without doing it too quick that I end up back off work and starting from scratch. I love my job, I miss it greatly by not being there. Up until the last 2 weeks I have only had 1 day off in 3 years, which is a great achievement considering the pain I am in each day. That may sound easy to do, but it truly is a challenge when constantly in pain and feeling exhausted from being in pain. It certainly can feel like I am climbing that rock face, and it does on most days. It shows I have a strong work ethic when I even went into work for three days with the terrible infection I had that made me feel like I was in labour before I ended up in A&E a couple of Thursdays ago. I was determined not to go sick – I had no choice in the end when I was admitted into hospital. The challenge for me at this point was accepting that sometimes I can’t just push through, sometimes I do have to listen to my body and stop, and sometimes I do have to take time out to recover. The challenge for me has been drumming it in to my thick head that I have not failed, which is how I have felt on several occasions over the last couple of weeks. I have had to make myself take on board the professional advice from my doctor to enable me to recover fully to how I was prior to the infection.
After all, I do have a substantial challenge coming up in just over 6 weeks, and I will need every ounce of my energy back!
PS – now exhausted again and that was from just writing this blog post. Thank goodness I did my research and set up all my Tuesday and Thursday tall ships posts before I came down with this infection, don’t think I would have the energy to do them at the moment, only just about have the energy to put their “where in the world are they” piece into them. Onwards and upwards though – tomorrow is another day.