A couple of weeks ago some rare opportunities came up for me to be involved in. I’ve been declining many invitations for some time now, but because these opportunities were rare, I grabbed life by the horns and took the opportunity to gain some new experiences. I enjoyed every minute of those experiences, but I paid for it quite severely with my energy levels last week.
I was really run down. It was similar to where I was last autumn — completely exhausted, unable to do much of anything other than sleep, but all that sleep was restless and didn’t really help relieve my fatigue. I took some annual leave, and a sick day, in order to get through the week. When I was in work I was told they were concerned about my attendance record. Of course, the remark about my attendance record has left me completely anxious and afraid to call in sick if I need to. Sigh.
I reiterated that I am definitely improving. A lot of people have noticed my increased cognitive abilities and physical energy, but I’m still going to have some off days. I put my hand up and said I had definitely over done it, hence taking additional annual leave (though technically I should’ve taken sick leave) and that I am still learning and adjusting to this new ‘lifestyle’ of having to manage my social life down to the hour.
I’m now feeling like I have to drag myself into work no matter what which will potentially make me even more ill again, requiring more long-term time off. I’d rather not get back to that point. I am enjoying work again, enjoying socialising when I can, being able to read a book without re-reading the same page a dozen times and still not understand what I’ve read. I wish I was one of those lucky people who rarely gets ill and therefore rarely has a day off sick. Unfortunately this has never been me, and I have to get past the guilt that goes with the fact that I am get ill more often than many.
But this morning, well, this morning I woke up with a terrible sore throat and a stuffed up nose. The glands in my throat are visibly swollen, and it hurts to swallow. It was actually a massive relief to wake up with these physical symptoms that anyone can relate to. Everyone has had a sore throat and stuffed up nose. They know those symptoms. They know the pain a bad sore throat may cause. And they can relate to the fatigue this physical illness can cause.
When you tell someone you are unwell with fatigue, and really can’t function because of it, they are likely to think you’re just a bit tired and should just suck it up and get on with it like everyone else. I get it. I totally understand the inability to truly relate to someone who is experiencing something you have no experience with, and the concept of something like fatigue being completely disabling seems impossible unless it’s coupled with a serious illness or plainly visible physical disability.
Some time ago I was suffering very severe migraine headaches. These were so debilitating that on a few occasions I had to be taken to A&E and given morphine injections to help ease some of the discomfort. Obviously in this condition I was unfit to work. At the time I had a line manager who never suffered headaches and could not relate, and didn’t try to. This same line manager often suffered debilitating menstrual cramps, something I never suffered, but had seen members of my family suffer. While I couldn’t relate physically, I could be empathetic to her physical discomfort. Unfortunately she couldn’t do the same to me and told me flat out that she felt I was making up my symptoms as she’d never heard of someone having so many headaches of such an extreme nature.
So this morning, sniffling and having trouble swallowing, I’m actually grateful for my ‘normal’ physical symptoms. People are less likely to think I am faking illness and being lazy. It might also be a partial explanation to the complete fatigue I had last week though I know my hectic (tongue in cheek, there) social life is mostly to blame.
So thank you, immune system, for giving me these physical symptoms and making me feel less guilty about being ill. If only my normal illness were so relatable.