If you are non-energy impaired and you are reading this and wondering what does ‘non-energy impaired’ even mean, please keep reading to better understand. If you are ‘energy impaired’ and reading this I’m sorry that you and I are in this boat together. If you are anything like me you once had a good bit of energy to toss about as you saw fit. You were active (so many of us were actually very active), you loved life. And then one day, or month, or year, your energy began to fade. Thinking it would certainly return you may have pushed back, digging deeper, only to find this was making you worse, for most, significantly worse. Eventually you realized after watching the pattern repeat itself that despite medical professionals telling you to keep pushing that you were actually harming yourself and becoming more ill. And somewhere during all of this you began to come to terms with it, you began to realize that you actually have a very small allotment of energy on any given day, or in any given moment and if you push harder you will surely pay the price as your body goes into energy crisis mode. As you began to look around you realized the crisis looks different for all of us. The range is so wide that I can’t even begin to encapsulate it; the symptom list I’ve seen has 144 items listed.
So what’s it like to be energy impaired?
Well, if you are like me you are constantly monitoring your energy to make sure you are not slipping into crisis mode. This is not day by day, it’s hour by hour, and moment by moment. We push so hard to survive, to simply function (things like getting to the bathroom and eating), that we become somewhat used to this constant feeling of deprivation and it’s actually necessary to stop and think…am I really okay right now, do I need to stop before I absolutely come crashing down. Just to clarify, stopping for us may include: stop reading, stop writing, stop drawing, or stop cooking or bathing. Our activities are very limited compared to a non-energy impaired person, but even these very low energy tasks absolutely wipe us out. One of the more challenging aspects of this illness is that some people get better over time, while some get worse (some actually get better and then get sick again…I’ve heard this is actually pretty common) and we have no idea when or if either of those things will happen. So we live in this constant state of fear and warrior mode, we push a little, we fight, we struggle and we rest, all the while being terrified that we are pushing our energy into crisis mode. We fear getting sicker, and at the same exact time we are absolutely ecstatic over the smallest of accomplishments, because deep down we truly just want to return to our pre-illness energy levels and get on with our lives.
Sometimes we can feel our energy slowly draining, but other times, like a thief in the night, it’s just gone. Many of us have no idea why this happens or when it is going to happen. We could be standing or sitting somewhere and our body could just go into crisis, which as I stated above could mean about 144 different things for different people. For me it’s often shallow breathing, weak legs, shaking, dizziness, feeling like I’m going to pass out, confusion and disorientation. Imagine if this was your reality, knowing that at any time your body could just tap out. Now imagine wanting desperately to still participate in your own life. If you are non-energy impaired and you are still reading, let me just say, we push, folks, not just every day, but throughout every day, we calculate, we analyze, we estimate, we project, and we beg our bodies to comply. It’s a life changing adjustment, but slowly but surely we learn work arounds to survive. For instance I paint in bed with a small watercolor journal so that each day I make a new memory. My journal is not heavy and my arms are propped on pillows so I don’t have to hold them up; that’s one of an incalculable amount of examples. Just to add one more level, please remember we are mothers and fathers, children, partners, friends, and employees. In other words we all are emotionally indebted to someone and so on our better days we strive to do our best to show those around us we are still in it to win it. Hopefully you are starting to see that we are not ‘just tired’, we are fighting for life, for quality of life, to live our lives and all the while scared of becoming worse. What does worse like? It looks like bedridden, it looks like not being able to eat or talk. It looks terrifying.
If you haven’t walked in the shoes if this illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, and I hope with all my heart and soul that you haven’t, you simply can’t know our strength. We are warriors, and fighters, we are so strong and courageous. We fight this silent energy crisis battle throughout every day for years on end. Unlike war though, where there are two visible sides, our battle is seemingly our health against our body and it’s invisible, that is unless you know one of us personally. If you are a witness you have seen firsthand when the battle pushes in and we are defeated on our flare days but then, if we are lucky, you will see on our better days when we gather our troops and push the illness back down. If you don’t know one of us personally and you don’t have the illness yourself all I can ask is that you please remember that energy is a precious gift that is far too often, albeit unknowingly, taken for granted and there are millions of us wishing we could be just like you.
Thank you for following along! Below are a few of my little watercolors as I continue to follow along with the daily prompts on World Watercolor Group via Instagram.