Lately, I’ve been beyond exhausted. Fatigue, exhaustion, and tired: nothing seems to cover how worn out I actually feel. I’ve had almost all of my IV iron treatments and I still feel wrung out like an old washcloth. I know it is normal for some people not to feel better until all of the treatments are finished. But it’s hard to know that intellectually and emotionally. Emotionally I’m impatient and frustrated.
Impatience and frustration are feelings I’m well familiar with in regards to my body. I want to feel better than I do, but I can easily make it worse with these feelings. This past week I started to get a migraine while I traveled and I held it off for a little while until it swooped down on me with intense force and laid me up for a couple of days.
Impatience and frustration only make migraines worse, in addition to everything else. My body and mind are calling out for rest and restoration, but I struggle to accept it because of another unpleasant feeling I associate with my body and mind: guilt.
I feel so guilty when I can’t do anything, when I have no energy, or when my brain is constricted. I hate feeling lazy. Intellectually I know I’m not lazy and I know that studies say that reframing my story and thoughts will more positively shape how I feel which in turn will improve my mental and physical health. I know that I should practice self-compassion and talk to myself the way I would a friend. I’ve read the latest studies and conclusions.
So, I do. I try to tell myself that I’m not lazy and that I’m taking care of my body and brain. I try to forgive myself for feeling guilt and for not doing everything I wanted to do today, this week, this month. I try to accept myself and my limits. I change my plans and accept that today’s not going to go the way I wanted it to go. I rest. I read when I can. I watch TV.
I try to reframe my story. I tell myself that my life has seasons and that in this season I have to focus more on health. I remind myself that low iron and other symptoms are additional physical problems on top of the others I have. I try to remind myself of everything I can and do do. I then try to remind myself that my worth is not measured by productivity.
But none of it is that easy. Some thought patterns are incredibly well ingrained. Some of them have been ingrained since childhood. Reframing them is often only temporary, or like a top coat of paint on a cement foundation.
What I feel like I need is a hard reset—like rebooting a computer or cell phone. But I don’t know how to do that. I’ve tried trips where I rested and trips where I explored new places. I’ve tried seeing the doctor and now I’m getting iron. I’m trying to use sleep, rest, exercise when I can, acupuncture, taking my meds, therapy, and all the old familiar remedies. But so far something more seems off and it all doesn’t feel like enough.
So I’ll keep asking for help from the doctors and keep doing my own experimenting with self-care (not the fun kind) but the down to earth, most basic self-care while keeping up as much of the familiar stuff as much as possible. Some days I have to accept that I can’t do everything…or even anything. Some days making dinner is a win. Some days just practicing patience is success. And even then it might only be a few minutes or moments of patience.
This is what they mean when they say recovery is not linear. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like I’m getting better. Sometimes I’m feeling worse. Sometimes all the time I feel worse, like right now. I don’t even know if I am getting better or if this is part of the of a longer narrative of getting better. Is this a season of illness or a season of healing? How does one know when one is in it? Is it something I can only know in retrospect? Maybe.
I suppose I’ll just have to hope and keep practicing patience and self-care best I can. Eventually, I hope reframed thoughts of acceptance and understanding will outnumber those that aren’t. I’m playing the long game here. Not just today or tomorrow or next week, but years from now. I am trying to invest in my future in the most literal way possible even if that means that today and tomorrow have to go a little differently than I planned.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash