When you have chronic illness you often are faced with the choice of playing it safe or pushing yourself. There are negative consequences if you go in either direction. If you push yourself to hard, you can exhaust yourself and maybe even make yourself temporarily sicker. If you play it to safe, you miss out on fun things and your body may become weaker over time.
This past weekend S. and I went with his friends from graduate school to the Catskills. On Saturday afternoon, a few of them were going to Hyde Park (FDR’s mansion). I LOVE history. S. decided that he couldn’t come because he wasn’t feeling well enough. I decided to go anyway. I was nervous in the car – what if i had an IBS flare up while I was out with his friends? what if I suddenly felt dizzy from a migraine and needed to sit down? what if I needed to leave suddenly because I felt so sick? I knew the more I worried, the more likely I would be to get sick so I enjoyed the scenery of upstate New York and the car ride with friends.
Then when we got to the mansion – the last tour of the day was booked, but we opted to walk around the grounds. In some ways that was better. I tend to feel less pain and dizziness when moving. Then the guys decided they wanted to hike down to the river. It was 1.5 miles round trip (half up hill and half downhill) They asked me if I wanted to do it. I love new experiences and I had never seen the Hudson so I wanted to. As I took each step closer to the bottom of the hill, I couldn’t help but worry about coming back up the hill. Each step down would be another step up.
When it came time to walk up, I didn’t want to seem weak (I was also surprised at how hearty I was feeling) so I pushed and pushed and pushed. I heard my heart racing in my ears, but felt good nonetheless and kept pushing. When I got to the top, I didn’t feel so well (nausea and face burning hot), but after about a half hour I was able to shake it off.
But the scenarios in my head are things that constantly have to play in the head of the chronically ill
And they don’t always end well.
A few months ago I decided to go back to work. I really missed my job. I had a few flare ups after work where Seiya had to come and pick me up downtown. Eventually I missed three days in a row and I knew my body couldn’t do it. Nor was I really enjoying myself the way I had before because I was trying hard to get through every class.
But if we become too sedentary we lose muscle mass and become weaker. We also begin to be able to do less and less than we were able to do before.