I look fine. I may seem fine. I probably sound fine. There are some new photos on Facebook from a couple weeks ago of me out with friends, smiling and having fun, having a few days of normalcy that are momentous and rare to me, but would probably not be a big deal for you and just a normal part of life. They were taken during one of those glorious and all too rare periods when I had several consecutive days of energy and feeling pretty good. (Today is not one of those days.)
(*disclaimer; I have to attest to the fact that I am still on an upward track with my overall health and what I am experiencing right now as far as this current setback is die off from recent treatment on May 23rd….at least I believe so).
But what people don’t see are the days inbetween, the days that I spend in a hazy purgatory of fatigue, fuzz, pain, swelling, isolation and my body’s betrayal against life itself.
I have to work tomorrow and I know that somehow I will pull together like I always do and put everything I have into doing my best at work, doing everything I can to just seem normal and do my job to the best of my ability, and thankfully I have been blessed over the years to stagger along in this manner; being a functioning Lymie.
I also have a gathering to go to after work tomorow and this is causing me distress. Why? Not because I don’t want to go, but the complete opposite! I want to badly and it is vitally important to me. But for me I don’t usually do anything on a work day afterward because I just spent the day giving 100% to my job and I will be drained, tired and numb. Instead of having fun I am worried I will just be in a haze of fatigue and rather than enjoying myself I will be a half-human whose mind is only about 30% present and therefore will get about 30% enjoyment being with my dear friend. These are the challenges faced by the upright and mobile Lymie. Spoons anyone? (Spoon Theory)
That said, when others can’t see the sickness (I haven’t lost hair, I don’t have an IV port or a wheelchair, I’m not gaunt or jaundiced) how can I convey what it’s like to be a functioning Lymie? (Please note I am also using the term “Lymie”right now in a generalist sense because I believe I am clear of the Borrelia itself at this point but I just got treated for still-present coinfections: Erhlychia, Clamydia (non-STD form), Epstein-Barr, Lyme Virus Coinfection A, Lyme Virus Coinfection C and Protozoa. But as we all know chronic Lyme is never just Borrelia).
I know that the yoyoing makes no sense to outside observers, those who don’t understand chronic Lyme; how can you be having fun at a festival one weekend and then in bed unable to socialize the next? Trust me it’s complicated, and frustrating isn’t a strong enough word for those of us that live through it. It is like being baited with tastes of life and constantly having it snatched away again.
So what is life like when I’m not doing so well, and you don’t see me, and there are no photos taken? :
I wake up at 10am, I don’t feel like moving. I feel groggy and heavy and “hungover”. I had a hard time falling alseep last night, like most nights. It’s a catch 22 because the stuff I take to help me sleep can also leave me feeling tired the next morning. Despite getting 9 hours of sleep I don’t feel rested at all….I may need to take a nap today. My brain feels like it is still in that state of shutting down, you know like how it feels when you are in the process of trying to fall asleep? It is doing the opposite of what it should be doing, being that I am trying to wake up. I do haul myself out of bed and I try and have some caffeine to counteract my wayward brain and body. I also take my morning pills. Since they are supposed to be taken away from food I wonder as I do every morning whether the creamy fluids are a problem. As usual the matcha green tea hemp latte isn’t doing it as far as waking me up, and although I am not supposed to have coffee, I reach for it anyway hoping that it will be my nectar of life. Sigh, I know this will continue the vicious cycle of inflammation and irritating my iGg reaction, but I so desperately want to feel awake. Choices choices…
I then decide to take a bath with Epsom salt and baking soda to help with the pain and stiffness, and to help me detox to (hopefully) help with this hungover feeling. After my tea and coffee and morning pills I feel too nauseous to really eat. I will probably have a bite of something here and there but on most days like this breakfast and lunch sort of meld together and meals get messed up. I also have my two doses of meds, morning and night that have to be taken two hours away from food and other pills….I am already off schedule and my day just started. I pretty much know that my dose of cholestyramine will get skipped yet again (like it does most days) because it also has to be taken 4 hours away from food or other pills. Then there are the pills to be taken with food… Might not get those in today either. This is impossible.
I spend maybe an hour in the bath catching up with Facebook and mail, listening to my current audio book, reading my Bible app and playing Candy Crush and Words With Friends. I eventually drain the water and spend at least another 30 minutes sitting in an empty tub because after a bath or shower I usually feel weaker, more lightheaded and struggle a little with feeling breathless and have a harder heartbeat. (This phenomenon: Why Do I Feel Worse After A Shower?).
I finally get out and get dressed, my equilibrium is off and I’m a little tippy. This is not entirely normal for me and I attribute it to die off/herx (What is a Herx?)
I look down at my body which I usually try and avoid at all costs; it is swollen and the edema is especially bad, and my legs are jiggling like a water bed (you think this is an exaggeration, it is not). The water retention makes my legs much bigger than they would be (come to think of it I haven’t seen what my body would look like without fluid in the last 7 years or so), It has also been this long since I have worn jeans or slacks because of aforementioned fluid. Did I mention it also hurts? Imagine the worst sunburn you have ever experienced, now picture the deep muscle ache of a hard workout after having not worked out for months… Got it? Okay. Now combine the two together and imagine them not on your skin or in your muscles but in all the deep tissues in your legs. Now imagine that pain is constant and you’ve had it for so many years you can’t remember a day without that pain. The only variance is that on good days it’s a low-grade 2, and on bad days it can be an Advil-inducing 8. This is a further incentive to keep a strict diet because increased pain and swelling can be almost instantaneous with ingestion of “bad” foods. (although I fail so often with a bite here, a nibble there…and remember the problem of coffee!) Thankfully for the most part it has been improving and today the fluid is bad , but the pain is maybe a 4, even though the lower half of my body (that I always hide and cover up) looks like Rosemary from Shallow Hal. I am just blessed not to have cankles today.
I see my face in the mirror for the first time today and it is of course all puffed up, most notably under my eyes. This is now of course also my normal and I wonder what I would look like “unpuffed”, I do get glimpses from time to time.
It’s now into the afternoon, I haven’t eaten much, I feel fuzzy in my head and tired despite my green tea and coffee. I really don’t know what to do with myself today because I’m too tired, so I sit on my bed with my phone. I would love to go on a walk or bike ride, but I feel like I can’t even force myself to get up and go do anything. I have my standard low grade headache; this is something I actually don’t really complain about or even acknowledge because it is so normal I don’t know what it feels like not to have a headache.
Many of you wonder why I don’t paint or do something artistic on my days off like this, it’s hard to explain. There is a definite disconnect in this hazy purgatory where you are aware that there is a part of you that can do those things and enjoys doing those things, but you can’t access that piece of yourself, even if you wanted to. Believe me I’ve tried! I’ve sat down and tried to paint on days like this and it’s like trying to draw water from an empty well…it just doesn’t happen.
So here I sit, another day of nothing. Another day of waste. A day where the tears do come. Another day sacrificed to the hungry Lyme gods that eat our lives and our souls…one apathetic day at a time.
I’ve given so many years of my life to days like this they can’t be counted. I’ve given my twenties, and now most of my thirties. Only Lymies will understand this, but this disease EATS YOU! It eats your body, your mind, what makes you you. It also eats your time on this earth.. Like water eroding the shoreline.
Today I need to pray more. Today I need to focus on God’s truths; because on days like today that are empty nothing’s sucked into the void, I have nothing else.
Looking “fine” a couple weeks ago