My dad asks me every time I see him, “how are you feeling?” Every time my answer is the same: I am tired, overrun, exhausted, hurting, and generally miserable. That answer has never changed since I got sick. But the other day he asked me to think about what I was able to do this year versus what I was able to do last year. I listed off all the things I had done that week and then I realized that I can do so much more then last year at the same time. I still have so many limitations I never realized that I have less limitations! But why do I still feel horrible all the time? Because I run to the end of my strength.
I’ve always been a person who likes so keep busy. One of the most frustrating things about chronic illness has been that I was forced to slow down and I get easily bored. So when I’m feeling well, all I want to do is go go go. I’ve gotten better over the last couple of years about managing my bursts of energy and not running myself into the ground, but it’s a constant battle. At my sickest moment all I was doing was taking care of my kids and keeping up with my blog and I was doing a minimal job at that. Now I volunteer for the Texas Lyme Disease Association, I ferry my daughter around to her after school activities, I have my kid’s friends over, I volunteer at my daughter’s school every week, I’m doing a better job of being a mother and wife, I cook dinner from scratch at least four days a week, I teach Sunday school every week, I spend time with friends, I have friends over to my house, and I’ve even been looking into getting a part time job or going back to school. Yes, I feel absolutely awful the majority of the time, but clearly I am doing a lot better then I was, I’ve just been too busy to see it. I go and go and then I get frustrated when my body prevents me from doing all the things I want to do, all while not noticing that my body is letting me do much more than I used to. I just keep running to the end of my strength.
I think a lot of us sickies do this even when we try not to. We know we need to manage things and we need to pace ourselves, but there are so many demands made on us that we feel we have to keep up with. I constantly feel like I’m failing people because I am not meeting their expectations. Even though I know that I need to put myself first and not fall to the pressure other people put on me, I hate being a disappointment and I hate when people think badly of me. Intrinsically I am a people pleaser, and chronic illness by its very nature does not allow much room for people pleasing. So when I feel well I think I have to make up for all the time I’ve lost and all the people I feel I have let down.
There is no magical answer to this problem. All of us are going to let someone down sometime and when you have a chronic illness its even more likely to happen. I’m trying to teach myself not to care, but it just isn’t that easy. The truth is all probably always run to the end of my strength because that is the nature of my personality, and my nature didn’t change just because I have a chronic illness.