Have you heard the saying the only things you can count on in life are death and taxes? It takes a while for that one to sink in, but adulthood really makes it shine. Just as you are coming into your own, ready to take on the great adventure of adulthood, entering the doors of freedom and liberation, you are also closing the door on the shelter and security of your parents’ home. Counting on something that doesn’t happen is definitely a lesson that toughens you up, but so can the unexpected.
I had a pretty good grasp on the concept before I got sick. I knew there were unanticipated highs and seemingly, without rhyme or reason, there were also immediate, in my case, unexpected lows. I also knew that whatever came my way I could shake it off and keep marching forward pretty much unscathed. I have a trail of memories that make for some truly unbelievable conversations, but, aside from a few things here and there, I never really let things get to me much. My boyfriend jokes with me to this day that I really have no expression change between excited and happy or sad or much of anything. I guess what I’m getting at is, not much phased me. And then I got sick.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), an illness that turns one’s superpower into being unable to properly regenerate energy amongst many other things, is completely life altering in almost every way. But one thing that makes it different from other illnesses, that really makes it stand out in a crowd with it’s cape on like the superhero that it is, is that ANY energy exertion, physical (like walking to the bathroom) or mental (like being really happy or really sad), exhausts us for long stretches of time. It’s difficult to explain the exhaustion. It’s not fatigue, and it can’t be fixed with coffee. One thing you learn quickly if you have CFS is if you try to push yourself through the exhaustion you get worse and your symptoms start to wreak havoc on your body in ways I won’t go into because honestly it’s different for all of us and I can’t put the intensity into words.
If you’ve made it this far you’ve likely noticed that the title has nothing to do with the post, so let me get to it. Physical exertion you can mostly control. Mental exertion you can sometimes control, but not always. What you can’t control is when someone gets sick, or when there’s an accident, the unexpected. When you have CFS you also can’t control how much energy your body is going to allot to emotional turmoil. For instance, when something tragic happens out in the world, and you can’t avoid it, you know you’re going to pay for it by feeling worse, or flaring as we call it. It could last a day, a week, months. (I’m trying to write this so as not to trigger anyone and it’s proving difficult so please know the rest of the paragraph should be avoided if you don’t want to ‘go there’.) The bottom line: the news of the loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the seven other people aboard the helicopter rocked our home. It was devastating. A man we’d watch grow up on TV, a man we’d never met, but grew to really admire as he matured into his very best self, taken way too soon. And his daughter, and the other daughters, mothers and fathers…I can’t even go there. Why? Here’s the thing, because I’m sick and I know that any sadness or overwhelming emotional expenditure will make me much sicker, I had to try to stay as removed as possible. I had to not feel the sadness as I would have. I had to remain as neutral as possible for my own self-protection. Let me tell you something, to me that feels like the epitome of selfishness, but the alternative was to let myself get as sad as I knew I was and then send myself back into another flare. This illness takes things from us in ways that cannot be put into words. It forces us to plan, and predict, nearly every movement in our lives, every action, every emotion must be scrutinized to determine if it’s worth it, will the ends justify the means. The fact remains though, sometimes in life you simply cannot plan for things, you cannot prepare for the unexpected. All you can do is show up and do your best in that moment and in my opinion that’s coping enough.
Thank you for stopping in today. If you too are saddened by the losses this week, I’m sending you out big hugs, actually even if you aren’t, I’m still sending you big hugs. If you come across any emotional bubble wrap, I’ll take two. Hoping that wherever you are and whatever you’re doing it’s going as well as it possible can. 🌸 A few more of my doodles below.