On Wednesday, August 24th, I had a major relapse. For the next 10 days, I felt like a complete zombie. I did very little except for watch Netflix and color in an adult coloring book. There was no noticeable improvement from day to day and I was beginning to feel like I would never recover. It basically felt like it was always 2 hours past my bedtime. Or that feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night and walk to the bathroom-- your heady is cloudy, you move slowly, and all you want to do is get back into the bed.
For the first five of these days, I was trying to be so strong that I wouldn't allow myself to get upset. Instead, I just tried to ignore it and numb out the feelings. But then, it all came out uncontrollably at the worst possible time. I called my mother who was very sympathetic and reminded me that being strong doesn't mean that you never feel sad or that you never cry. In fact, its in those moments where you realize just how strong you are.
In a previous post, I referred to these as moments of weakness, but now I'm beginning to see how they can turn into moments of strength. A strong person acknowledges when things are hard, and acknowledges that they feel angry, frustrated, etc. A strong person has healthy ways of expressing and releasing these feelings. I was trying so hard to be "strong" throughout this illness, but now I know I simply need to try easy. This situation sucks and I'm not going to be able to be positive 100% of the time, or even 90% of the time. Ironically, once I gave myself permission to not be little miss sunshine all the time, I felt way better.
After this realization/catharsis, I still felt like crap physically for the next five days, but I was in a better spot mentally.
As I said in my most recent post, I've put running on the back burner. It's much easier to simply focus on getting healthy than to give myself artificial deadlines for when I return to running. And honestly, it's really difficult to keep picking goal marathons, only to realize that I'm still not able to train, so those aren't going to happen. After feeling like crap for so long, all I really want is to feel like my normal, healthy, self.
But lo and behold, when I woke up on Saturday morning, I felt like a human being! For the first time in 10 days, my entire body didn't ache and the haze had lifted from my head. Instead, my new symptom was sleepiness. Instead of feeling tired-exhausted, I felt tired-sleepy, and so for the past three days I have been sleeping about 10 hours a day.
Looking at the big picture of this illness and trying to find a silver lining, I do feel like I am teaching myself how to take better care of myself. I'm realizing that stress is truly the enemy when it comes to getting enough sleep, and that sleep is super important for health and well-being. I'm prioritizing things like drinking water, eating vegetables, and relaxing, and I'm learning to slow down the pace of my life. The doctor told me that I needed to "pace myself" and I think that goes beyond recovering from this illness. Once I return to working full time, running, and continuing to promote the book, I need to realize that none of these things are as important as my health, and keep things in perspective.
The coloring thing really works for me because I really enjoy it (especially choosing the color palette) and it allows me to be engaged in something that's not stressful. It satisfies my need to be accomplishing something but without stressing me out or putting a physical strain on me.
Ever since Saturday, things have been looking up. I've been feeling noticeably better, but I haven't capitalized on that to do a million things. I've been wearing my Fitbit to monitor my steps and my sleep to make sure that I'm not doing too much stuff around the house. I consider it a victory to be able to make a smoothie for Greg while he's running and to fold laundry. Even writing this blog post is not as taxing as it was to write the previous one. I'm not going on "athletic" walks with running shoes and workout gear, but for the past few days I've taken leisurely walks out of my front door lasting no longer than five minutes. I think the early morning air is refreshing, and it's probably not good being stuck inside all day.
My spirits are generally pretty good, and I'm learning how to be disciplined in pacing myself. I want these habits to stick with me as I get healthier. I definitely do not want to go through an illness like this again. At least not during the next 20 years.