It’s been coming on for weeks. Weeks of fatigue steadily creeping up on me, coupled with a decrease in activity.
I finally gave in.
I took two days.
I stayed in bed, I watched movies, and I napped.
And it was such a relief. It had been so exhausting, struggling to hold on to the last vestiges of routine, of normality- cooking, cleaning, and exercise – it was so easy, so wonderful, to let go, just for two days.
I told myself that I needed the rest. That taking the time off would help me regain my strength, and end my slow downwards spiral.
Because that’s what people do. When their bodies start to shut down, they turn them off their lives for a while, let themselves recharge.
Yet even while I burrowed deeper into my nest of pillows, I felt guilt. I felt fear. I feared what this rest would cost me.
But I was tired. I had a sore throat and burning eyes, my limbs were weak and aching. My head hurt. I didn’t want to push anymore. I wanted a day off.
So I took one.
And throughout the day, I noticed no obvious repercussions. My symptoms didn’t worsen dramatically, in fact, my sore throat improved, and my eyes returned to normal.
I started to think that maybe I was wrong. Maybe I can take days off.
So I took another one.
But then, on the evening of that second day, the aching in my body changed. All of the sudden, I noticed swelling, of the likes that I hadn’t seen for months. I shifted around trying to ease the pain, and was greeted with a symphony of cracking and popping, without any relief.
As I went to bed that night I knew that my days off had come to and end. I vowed to fight back stronger in the morning.
And I did. I forced myself to go to the gym, but it was so much harder than usual. I tried listening to music to distract me from my rapid heart rate, my creaking joints, my weakened muscles, but it exacerbated my already pounding headache.
Instead, I passed the time feeling ashamed and angry at what I had let happen.
Yes, I had felt like I was at the end of my resources, that I needed the rest. But I have a chronic condition. There are no days off. By not exercising, even for a day or two, by missing a dose of medication, by not wearing my compression garments, I do not only effect that particular day, but those that follow.
And it is horrible to suffer, and know that I could have prevented it.
But as I pushed myself through that first workout, and those that have followed, I also felt a bit of awe.
Awe, that the enormous daily effort I exert can be so easily trampled, yes.
But, primarily, awe at myself.
For two days, I did nothing. I did nothing helpful, but I also committed no damaging actions – I did not get injured, I did not stay up late. I simply rested, neutrally, for 48 hours.
And just that made a significant dent in the progress that I have made. Hopefully an easily and quickly repairable dent, but a dent nonetheless.
Yet for the past year, I have not merely maintained an equilibrium with my condition, but made sizeable gains. I have plateaued, certainly, and experienced multiple backslides, but overall I have been slowly but steadily treading towards a life with a condition that is fully under control.
And that is incredible.
I am not proud of the two days I designated as ‘sick days’.
But I am immensely proud of every other day that I drag myself out of bed, and defy something that needs no trigger to destroy.
I am not weak for slipping up. I am human. I make mistakes, and ideally I will learn from them.
But I am powerful. I am strong. I challenge nature and instinct every day.
And every day that I do not lose, I win.
I am a champion.