Sunday, August 23, 2009

For the first time.

It probably shouldn't be the first time I've done it. And I guess, in a way, when I left the law firm job for six months last spring/summer my physical health was part of why. But then I spent that time working more physically demanding jobs, so it wasn't a very good approach.


For the first time, I've actually taken some real time off of work so try to get my health back to a more workable place. What is "real time"? Only two weeks, actually. But for me, someone who sort of freaks out when I have to go in late or leave early or, god forbid, just call out for the day, it's a pretty big deal.

Now, if there are any fibromyalgics in the crowd, they may be saying to themselves is this girl kidding me? She works full time and calls herself sick? This is total crap; I'm out. To those people, I say: first of all, yes, I work full time. And it's really, really hard. I take several prescription medications and am under regular chiropractic care in order to be able to do so. And even then sometimes there are days that I barely get through, and days that I don't get through or don't even make it to. (At this point I should note that I spend a fair amount of mental energy defending myself from imagined attacks. Symptom common among sufferers of "invisible" illnesses and/or people whose parents did not acknowledge their sicknesses and injuries in childhood? You tell me.)

Back to my point. I had already planned to take the first week, for the trip to New Orleans. This second week, though, was an impromptu decision. I came to it the week before last, on Monday specifically. It had taken me extra long to get up and get dressed and get to work; I was an hour late. Because, you know, I was in so much pain that walking was pretty hard. And within 45 minutes of arriving, I realized I shouldn't have gone at all. At that point though staying was as easy as getting back home. The pain I was in didn't allow me to rest in bed (laying down was excruciating). And the travel home, either by subway or by car, was a more daunting task than I could stomach the thought of. So I stayed.

It was, as they say, the final straw. For weeks - six of them? seven? eight? - I'd been getting progressively worse. More bad days, closer and closer together, and of a greater intensity. I've gone through so many bouts of weeks or months on end of heightened exhaustion, increased levels of general pain, or localized flare ups. This has been something different. I'm still not sure that I know what's happening. But by that Monday I knew unequivocally that if I did not take action, it would keep getting worse.

So I sat down with the two attorneys I do most of my work for. I've gotten myself into a very fortunate position in that I work for two compassionate people that value my "contributions to the team". They're also just cool, and it helps that we're all about the same age. (OK, fine, I'm three years older than both of them. Whatever. They're overachievers and I'm a late bloomer. A subject for another day.) They see what I do to myself, pushing too hard and making myself sick, and then having to backpedal, reel it all back in. And basically they'd rather me take a little time now to get back to a good place than keep pushing it and run into who knows what in another month or two.

So it was decided. It was immensely difficult for me to admit not only to myself, but to people that I work with and for, that things had actually gotten bad enough to warrant needing so much time off. One of my afflictions - one of the reasons that I'll probably be in psychotherapy for ever and ever - is that, whenever I try to explain my condition to anyone, I feel like I'm lying. Or at the very least exaggerating. (This could also be where some of the defensiveness comes from - I'm trying to convince myself. You'd think the pain would do the trick?)

Well, here I am, post week one, about to enter week two. The week where I'm home, and just not going to work. And I'm scared, because I'm not getting any better. Today I'm in such severe abdominal pain that I've barely left my bed. I'm not sure of the provenance of what's happening: whether it's the pain of my lower back inflaming the nerves that innervate my digestive system, or whether it's an IBS flare (I've been having a lot of those lately), or whether the severe craps from my three-day-early period have everything in the neighborhood in an uproar. It could be any combination of these. The end result is the same: I can't stand up straight, and when I try to walk I look like I'm doing my best impression of an octogenarian. Actually, our landlady just turned 80 and she gets around a good bit better than I do some days.

I'm frustrated, and I'm scared. I'm worried that I may not be able to go back next week. How do I go there when I can't walk? I shouldn't. I know I shouldn't. This flare is out of control, and I can't seem to reel it back in. I have great plans for stretching and eating better and maybe starting yoga again. How do I enact them when I can barely get out of fetal position? I have an appointment with the doc tomorrow, and maybe a new pill will help, but I know better than to expect miracles. I also know better than to think it won't come with a price.

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