Sunday, May 1, 2016

When Acute Becomes Chronic

I've been thinking a lot lately about self. As in, two years later and I'm still not myself. In a grand sense, I'm so very grateful. To remain unchanged after becoming a mother is unfathomable. I don't necessarily miss the self who was a little more "put together" with plucked eyebrows and painted toenails and daily quiet time (okay, I miss the daily quiet time). But let's be honest, I've always been pretty low-maintenance when it comes to exterior perks and that's okay.

I haven't been the same since I had my son. I love him infinitely. He makes me smile like nobody's business-- far more than anything else makes me smile these days. But it's not fair or possible to draw my light from him all day every day. I cry to the Lord, and He hears me-- He's molding my heart to be more like His-- but He's not healing me the way I want. Physically, emotionally, mentally, I'm not myself anymore. It doesn't feel fair to my son, to my husband, to my family and friends, to me... for me to be... not me.

Even my future self, the one I see at the other end of this chain of lights, the one I draw toward me one or two bulbs at a time, on a good day, remains ever far away.

I miss the part of me that had inner vibrance. Some spontaneous, uninitiated joie de vivre, at least sometimes. I get glimpses of her, when I'm clear-minded enough to hold a thoughtful conversation. When I'm spilling over with words that need to find a page. When I have energy to move my body.

I wouldn't say I'm depressed. My counselor concurs, as does my paradoxical response to numerous anti-depressants and anti-anxiolytics. Dare I say? I'm sick. I don't look nearly as sick as I did a year ago, and my level of pain is decreased by at least 80% on a good day compared to this time last year. Once or twice a month, I can muster up a "real" workout and enjoy the adrenaline rush immensely, even though I pay for it for the next 5-7 days. I can have a good "normal" weekend from time to time, but it's always followed by a truly horrible week.

I can't help but feel like I've fallen into the doughnut hole. Of course, there's the political one, where health insurance (which I'm so very grateful to have) only skims the surface when the doctors who are willing to step out on a limb charge by the hour, and don't file with insurance. (Because when you're sick and overwhelmed, it's no big deal to collect paperwork and navigate insurance bureaucracy, right?!)

But this is the doughnut hole where I fear acute becomes chronic. The one where you sense very few people still take you seriously. The one where you doubt yourself, even as your gut tells you, there's more out there! This cannot and will not be how you feel forever!

How long do you have to be a shell of yourself to call it chronic fatigue? I know it has to be long enough and low enough to bring you to a point where you're willing to admit this is a real thing, even though it terrifies you to your Just Do It core.

As a healthcare provider, do I respect my clients enough when they bare their "please tell me I'm not crazy" secrets? As a patient, is it worth staying up late to write a narrative of the last two years for a doctor who may or may not want to read it?

At what point is it optimism to get my hopes up that maybe this next doctor knows that how I feel is real, and at what point is it foolishness?

At what point is is helpful to cut out this food or add that supplement, and at what point does the trying and failing do more harm than good? The kind of harm that makes you feel like this is all your fault even though surely you just drew the short straw. (And how long does it take these dang expensive vitamins to work, anyway?!)

At what point, I wonder. At what point does acute become chronic?

See also: these fascinating essays on women and pain.

See also: the genius spoon theory.

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