Without rhyme or reason, symptoms flare. This is what it’s like: I am doing the things that I usually do on a good day, such as walking my dog a block or two, light housework, an hour or so on an art project, working on my computer, eating, bathing, etc. and at some point I notice my legs aching beyond the usual, as if I ran miles the day before (check my planner… nope, no forgotten 5k). This achiness spreads and intensifies into full body weakness. By the end of the day I have to take a pause coming up the stairs. It’s as if my torso muscles are hauling tree-trunks instead of legs, each step a three-part challenge. My head whirls from the fatigue. You know that feeling the first day of a really bad flu? I crash, accordingly. Enter X number of super-sick days. I am not bedridden, but I would be if I had the option.
This time it is five days, so far. I am in the thick of it. FATIGUE (If I didn’t have it so badly right now, I could try to explain what this word actually means). My throat is swollen and sore, my appetite is completely gone, and the body aches continue. My neck- a daily pain struggle- is (fortunately) no worse than usual. However, one thing that hasn’t happened to me in months but has returned with distinction is the feeling that I need to walk on my tippy-toes to avoid the impact of the floor on the base of my skull. Each step on flat feet produces a shock of pain where my neck meets my head. So I walk gingerly on the front pads of my feet when I can; this is called my broken ballerina walk and it looks ridiculous. I’ve been wearing shoes at home, where the floors are tile and therefore unforgiving, and that is helping a bit. When I wake up in the morning and step out of bed, it is as if I have just finished an 8-hour shift waiting tables. It is truly bizarre; even the muscles and joints in my feet ache, my body vividly recalling the years of restaurant work. But I haven’t been working, exercising, spending extra time on my feet, or really doing anything different to explain this latest flare-up. It is what it is. It doesn’t make sense.
What I want people to know is that it is getting easier. I used to agonize about what sort of lonely and miserable person I would become if I stayed sick long-term. But truthfully, my life is becoming easier as time goes by. I am no less sick, but I have adjusted to it. I like my life, especially when I don’t compare it to the lives around me (and besides, I know everyone is fighting private battles). I am at ease with my situation just as it is right now. There are so many things- tiny things and grand things- that I feel joyful about. I don’t spend time trying to change the circumstances I can’t control. I do, however, write small jingles. Pain comes, pain goes, maybe it ends, no body knows! For some time now, I feel genuinely unafraid. Big sun rises, keepin’ us warm, I’m lost at sea, so bring on the storm!
So, here’s one way I weather the weather: a lot of time in the bathtub. It seems like a strange thing to do in the oppressive heat of Florida in the summertime, but a warm bath helps alleviate the pressure and tension that causes my neck pain. I take at least one a day, sometimes out of routine, and sometimes out of desperation, as if I cannot breathe or think or do a single task until I have sunk down into the water for fifteen minutes. Since I write a lot, I’m thinking about putting together a collection of essays and calling it Tales From My Tub. Though the essays are about illness (an unavoidable subject of my life), they are lighthearted and intended to be funny. And, to think, for 25 years, I was “….really more of a shower-type person. I mean, who wants to slosh around in their own filth?” Good one, Life, good one.