Monday, May 11, 2009

Anatomy of a Bad Day

The focus for my blog entries this week is going to be on my health, or relative lack thereof. Since today is turning out to be a "bad day" and all I can think about is how lousy I feel, it's time to "go with the flow" and share what a bad day looks like for me. As you can see from the picture to the left, a bad day is often synonymous with a bed day...

So what makes a bad day?

Any little thing that upsets my illness equilibrium: more pain, more fatigue, less sleep than usual, a cold, the flu or other infection, to much activity the day before, too much stimulation (positive or negative) the day before, a change in the weather, etc.

For example, last night I had more trouble than usual sleeping. When I finally woke up after 10 hours of more interrupted than usual sleep, I had a huge headache and my neck was extra painful and sore. This was in addition to my "normal" symptoms of all my muscles feeling achy and sore and feeling so tired, like I had not gone to bed in the first place.

Then the calculations begin: what do I have scheduled for today and do I need to cancel it? What is really wrong with me and what should I try to address the increased symptoms? You see, with chronic health problems, a headache isn't always "just a headache" and a couple of Tylenol isn't always the cure for what ails me.

Today I decided to start with two extra strength Tylenol, but after an hour the headache was still there. Not good. Now I am worried that this headache is going to be with me all day. The calculations start again: what do I have on the schedule for tomorrow? Do I need to be proactive and cancel my plans? Can I walk the dogs tonight? Can I go outside and water my garden for 15 minutes this evening? I systematically try a couple of other remedies, both over-the-counter and prescription, but after each the headache is still there. With each minute that passes and the headache is still there, the answers are supplied to my questions: cancel your plans, don't walk the dogs, the garden will have to wait for tomorrow.

So a bad day can be a headache that won't go away, and because it won't go away it makes all my symptoms worse, so that it becomes clear that the only thing I can do all day is lay on my bed and rest. In the end, what I want to do today doesn't matter. If I don't heed the warning and let everything come to a screeching halt, I risk more bad days strung one after the other. That's when a bad day becomes a flare-up and I've learned to avoid those. For me, there is no ignoring my headache and pushing past the pain so I can do what I want to do. As someone in my online Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Self-Help Group so eloquently said: Push = Pay, Pace = Play.

Here's hoping my bad day turned bed day means no headache and a better day tomorrow.

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