Sick and Tired, But Mostly Tired.
I've been fully living lately.
After a year and a half of extreme sickness –– spending all my free time in bed, not being able to eat, and pretty much never socializing –– my biologics finally kicked in this year, and I kicked back into the high gear of a "normal girl."
I'm not a normal girl.
Don't take that the wrong way here –– I know my illness doesn't define me as a person, but it is definitely a big facet of who I am. Even when I'm going through a healthy phase, it's relative. I'm healthy by my standards, not the standards of a 25-year-old woman without a chronic illness.
I've done a lot recently that I couldn't do at this time last year. I put on a hard hat and built a house with Habitat for Humanity. I drank the day away at the beach with my best friends on the 4th of July. I biked 20 miles with my co-workers. I traveled solo to London. I climbed a rock wall. I stayed out all night.
Most recently, I went to Boston for the weekend with my family. It was a great trip, but it confirmed what I've been noticing over the last few months of a constantly busy schedule –– that I can't do it all, all the time. That the underlying exhaustion that comes with a chronic illness means that I don't necessarily have the same stamina my friends and family have. That I can definitely go sightseeing and eat at great restaurants and cheer on my (White) Sox at Fenway Park, I am going to need to take a break after. I'm going to need to listen when my body says to slow the hell down.
I've noticed that even at my healthiest, if I do too much for too many days in a row, I crash. I get sicker. My body aches, and I get hit with a fatigue so bad I can't keep my eyes open. I was recently at a music festival (after 3 days of solidly booked, crazy plans), and I got so tired I felt like I had been drugged, and nearly passed out. Guess what? It wasn't drugs –– it was a week of being way too busy in a body that doesn't support that kind of schedule. That's how extreme exhaustion can feel for people with autoimmune diseases. We don't just want a break–– sometimes we physically need one.
The term "exhaustion" gets a bad rap because sometimes celebrity rehabs use it as a euphemism, but for the sick, we know it's a real thing. And we know how quickly it can hit. And we know it doesn't care about our well-laid plans.
I spent the last night of our Boston trip posted up in a pull out bed at the hotel, room service in my lap and Wedding Crashers on the TV while my family went on a boat cruise. It wasn't the most glamorous bookend to a vacation, but it was what I needed. And that's what I'm trying to get at here –– not that chronically ill folks like myself can't do all the fun things we want, but that we have to be more aware of keeping a balance. That we have to listen to our bodies, and not let "healthy people" make us feel like we're not keeping up. That we may have to prioritize a little bit differently.
So if you've got a chronically ill loved one in your life, check in on them. Make sure they aren't overbooking to keep up with their healthy friends. Make sure they're taking breaks, and that they know that in your company, they should never be embarrassed to say it's time to rest.
And if you're the ill person in question, know your limits and don't be afraid to enforce them. People who don't understand the value of rest are missing out on a lot of great TV movies, anyway.