I am having one of those bone-crushing, limbs-made-of-concrete, too-tired-to-walk-across-the-bedroom-for-my-meds days. Which is made even more frustrating by the fact that I’m not even in much pain today. This should be a good day, where I catch up on chores and walk to the shops, and instead, it’s 3:50pm and I’m still too tired to shower. Washing my hair seems about as achievable as climbing a mountain right now. I am hungry and home alone and too tired to prepare food.
I realise sharply, on days like this, that although I tend to think of myself as having ‘a stuffed back’, or sometimes as having chronic pain, what I actually have is an illness, of which my back problems are only one symptom. The largest, most inconvenient, and most life-altering symptom, definitely, but taken together my health issues are more complicated than that.
Most of the time my other problems are minor: skin rashes and eczema, hair loss, poor temperature regulation, low blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, reflux, diarrhea, constipation, profuse sweating, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, tremors, Reynaud’s phenomenon (purple feet with white toes), occipital neuralgia (migraine-like symptoms from a neck issue), other joint pain. Each of those things in isolation, although irritating and occasionally debilitating, is largely manageable, so I often focus on the minor problem occurring at the given moment and lose sight of the fact that each piece is part of a bigger picture.
For the last week or so, my brain fog has been particularly bad. I’ve kept losing words on the tip of my tongue, forgetting why I entered a room or opened a browser window or the fridge or picked up my phone, started a sentence only to leave it hanging mid-air while I panic, eyes darting, trying to retrieve my thought. Sometimes I can piece it together, sometimes it comes back the next day, sometimes it is gone for good and I worry it was important.
When my lovely, articulate, intelligent brain – the brain I count on to get me through my course and into my profession, to keep me who I am, to make me who my partner and family and friends love – is failing me;
When my body, despite having nothing obviously wrong with it, is overwhelmed by the simplest tasks;
When this happens, on days like today – more than in hospital, hooked up to IVs, with fresh surgical scars and scans and doctor’s appointments – I feel sick.