People ask me quite often if I’m feeling better and it’s a hard question to answer. Recovering from something quite major like Graves’ disease is not the same as the flu. It’s going to take months to go into remission and some people have told me to cater for a year. I took years to get into this poor state of health and to embed the life circumstances that created it. And it will take many months to recover and to unravel my life. It takes focus, discipline and courage to renegotiate and to prioritise yourself.
I’m not sure I’ll ever feel as robust as I have felt earlier in my life but perhaps that’s true of any grown-up. I’ve always wanted a sabbatical but I dreamed of having the time to do things, learn things, clear out cupboards at home and enhance myself significantly. It’s true I’m on a personal growth path but I have to be quite cautious with anything that drains my energy, given my depleted state. I can’t commit to courses that last four hours because I’m afraid I’ll take days to recover.
There’s no question that recovery is boring. And it’s frustrating that my state of health is not apparent to other people. Sometimes I wonder if people think I’m just pretending. I haven’t lost hair or weight and I’m not covered in purple spots. I can hold a conversation and can go out briefly. I don’t believe in dramatizing my illness so I probably put on a more energetic demeanour for my rare outings. What people don’t see is the impact of overdoing it. They don’t see me having to sleep for a few hours each day in order to just cope with caring for my kids. They don’t see that I actually need recovery time on a Monday after the weekend.
I have times when I think I’m getting better. On Friday I missed my daily nap due to my three-year-old being sick. Expecting to feel exhausted on Saturday morning, I actually woke up before my children. That tells me that perhaps I’m getting enough sleep and I’m starting to recover. But it’s really hard to tell whether that’s true, or just one occurrence that I should not read anything into.
I’m really afraid of regressing as I do struggle to know how well I really am. Looking back, I know that I am much better than I was in November last year. But I also know that I’m not up to a full work day or even a lot of commitments in a week. I have blood tests taken once a month and my doctor has not really even given me timelines on how long this typically takes. I’m doing what I can to rest but how do I know if I should be only sleeping and reading? I’m afraid that by the time my medical leave is over, I might actually not be up to it. Am I wasting my leave by going out for coffee once a week? I also need to solve this underlying problem of my future career passion and that can’t be done at home by myself all day for months on end. I have to talk to people and be around those who care.
Many of the entrepreneurial articles and personal growth books I’ve read cite the importance of waking up early in order to succeed. Ordinarily I’d love to do that – be up before the family wakes, have a chance to shower in peace, go to the toilet without being followed and perhaps write a bit. Given my state of depletion and how much rest I need, I simply have not been able to do that.
I so look forward to a time when I can work, I can help people, contribute to the world and still have energy to care for my kids. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to run again. It all feels so far away. I’m tackling my recovery like a project, with my self-care roster and making sure I have alternative healing and a healthy diet. But that could also be a problem. Maybe I’m creating more stress for myself. I just don’t know and there’s no-one who can guide me.
So the answer to the question ‘Are you feeling better?’ right now is ‘I think so but I’ve got a long way to go’.