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Each morning I review my Twitter Friends' Timeline. Since my health precludes employment right now, my Twitter feed has become a sort of high tech replacement for workplace gossip and quick chats by the office water cooler. I read 140 character snippets of what is going on in other people's lives and, through the process, get to feel connected to a community that is out there working, commuting, playing and getting things done without me.
I mention my quirky Twitter routine because I saw an important lesson unfold over these past two days on my Twitter feed. I follow several people who are living with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and other chronic illnesses. Ordinarily I gain valuable information from these people: resources, notices of upcoming events, reports of new findings and links to interesting advice.
Sometimes tweets about their personal lives get mixed in with all that information. Two days ago I saw a tweet that went something like this: Getting so much done today and bragging about it too! Then yesterday I saw another tweet from the same person: All flared up, worse I've been in a long time. Need to take it easy today. Immediately, I felt empathy. After all, I've been there too, exactly the same. Then I remembered something that my friend Suella always says, "The most dangerous days for me are the ones when I feel good."
One of the patterns I worked hard to stop first was the Push-Crash cycle. Like the tweets above demonstrate, it goes something like this: I wake up one morning and I feel relatively better than I have in awhile. I mistake this for having extra energy, or even an improvement in my symptoms, and immediate proceed to take advantage of the circumstances. I take on extra work, catch up on waiting projects, even going out for an impromptu dinner and movie with friends. I temporarily forget about pacing, planning, saying no and resting. I just do it and go for it.
The day is over and I feel tired, but O.K. But the next day, or maybe even a day or two after that, I wake up and I don't feel good. Seemingly overnight my aches and pains are worse, I'm more tired, I've got a headache and I can barely make it out of bed. I'm all flared up and wondering what happened. My fibro fog, aka fibromyalgia-related cognitive impairment, conveniently makes me forget about my day of false extra energy and subsequent increased activity. I focus instead on my worsened symptoms and my plans to make my bad day into a rest in bed day.
I want to say that I am the kind of person that learns from others' mistakes, but I'm not. My best learning comes from making lots of my own mistakes. What spurred me to leave the Push-Crash cycle behind? I spent a weekend in San Francisco in 2005 visiting friends with my husband. I did way too much and came home extremely exhausted, to the point of collapse. Two days later developed a migraine headache that lasted for seven days and resulted in a trip to the Emergency Room. Never wanting to have a seven day headache ever again, I learned to change my ways.
Even with the realization that I needed to start doing things differently, it still took me several years to accept that I wasn't going to wake up one day and be back to normal. My body with chronic illness was now temperamental, hypersensitive, irritable, unreliable and easily upset. I needed to accept my body, to love and cherish it despite all the pain and fatigue, and treat it with respect. I was finally able to embrace this concept when I chose to switch my focus to living my best life despite chronic illness at the beginning of 2008.
Yes, Suella, a good day IS dangerous. I still struggle to avoiding the temptation to do more just because I feel better. The reality is that it is going to take a lot of good days, all in a row, strung together, before I can even consider doing just a little bit more. Even then, I'd be wiser to conserve that extra energy and channel it into healing and building my reserves. But I'm not there yet; this is my next challenge.
I don't want to push today, crash tomorrow, anymore.