To the uninitiated, it sounds like such a simple question: “What did you do today?” And really, it is simple. It’s the answer that’s complicated.
Some days the answer is complicated because the day was spent dealing with symptoms, but other days the complication comes from a reality that is so different from that of my peers. That’s how it was one day last week.
I’ve started dating someone, and I’m trying a new approach: honesty. Ok, filtered honesty, but I’m trying not to filter too much. The filter is limited to certain symptoms. There’s no need to mention pooping my pants at this stage of the relationship, for example. I’m trying to share everything else. But that gets complicated.
I asked “What did you do yesterday?” in an email this morning and he responded by telling me about getting together with some friends after work. Yeah, that’s what my answers used to look like, too. Not now.
When he asked me last week, I answered honestly: I bought groceries, did some medical research, pulled together paperwork for my food stamps application, and washed a bunch of dishes. I did a few other niggly things, but those were the main ones. Groceries and dishes are familiar to most of us, but medical research and food stamps? Um, not so much. He was surprised when I mentioned the food stamp paperwork (actually, it’s called SNAP now, but whatever.) But when he thought about it, of course he realized that if I don’t have much income coming in, then of course I qualify for and need food stamps. As for the medical research, he has no idea how much time I spend on that. I tried to explain a little bit. He loves that I’ve taken matters into my own hands by doing my own research. He just doesn’t understand how hard it is. He doesn’t know about brain fog. I’ve tried to explain it, but he hasn’t witnessed it (it hasn’t been too bad since we started dating, and I usually hide it well.) Besides, you can’t really understand brain fog unless you experience it yourself. He doesn’t see how exhausting reading can be. He doesn’t know that I don’t just read an occasionally newspaper article – I follow blogs and Facebook groups, I read news articles and web sites. I read entire books from the library. I spend so many hours on this, it would shock him. He’ll learn in time, I’m sure.
And that was just that one day. He hasn’t asked about today yet, but it’s a similar mix: I cooked (ok, I threw ingredients in the crockpot, but it counts, right?) I rescheduled two doctor appointments, I’m writing on this blog that he doesn’t know about yet, I prepared paperwork for my fuel assistance meeting tomorrow, I prepared paperwork for my medical appointment tomorrow, I looked up the best routes to get between the two appointments (I can’t remember the last time I had two appointments in one day!), I pulled my winter clothes out of the closet and packed away my summer clothes, and I rested. I rested a lot. Because all of that was exhausting! I still have so much more to do, but I know it won’t get done. If I can muster the energy, I’ll do my physical therapy exercises tonight. I have done them in a while – not since before my grandfather died. I need to try. Maybe in a few days I’ll find the energy to finish going through my clothes. Right now, my suitcase and duffle bags are are open on my bedroom floor with clothes spilling out of them. My drawers are too full. I have sweaters on top of the dresser because I haven’t found a place to keep them yet. I have pants on the bed that I need to try on. What I don’t have is the energy to deal with any of that.
And yesterday? Yesterday I straightened up my apartment just a bit, did a bunch of dishes, went to a doctor appointment, bought a new winter coat (yay!), and then came home and collapsed in exhaustion. Somewhere in there I also managed to write a blog post about the suckiness of this month and probably do a couple of other things that I have since forgotten about as those memories have been lost in the fogginess of my brain.
And those are just three sample days. Sure, some days I deal with less health-related stuff. But other days I deal with so much more. Friends are surprised when I mention yet another doctor appointment, picking up more meds, or any of the other random acts that I no longer consider unusual. Actually, what surprises them is not that I do these things – after all, they know about my health problems – but my nonchalance. They can’t understand my attitude when I mention getting bloodwork in the same way that someone else would mention picking up milk at the store. But that’s just it. For me, they are the same. Medical care is more than just routine. It’s like breathing.
No, wait, I was wrong. They are different.
I can’t drink milk.
Now it’s your turn. What did you do today? Or on some other typical day? And how to friends react when you mention it?
I used to get really frustrated when my husband would ask me this question. I felt like he was questioning me just expecting me to say “I did nothing”, or that I spent time with friends so he could jump on it, and that he was jealous that that was often true. I’ve been self-employed for 15yrs and I know he gets jealous of the fact that I control my time. I felt guilty that I could choose how I spent my time, that I could work for 4 hours or 12, if I chose to, depending on what needed done and what I wanted to do. I finally had to stop and have a real discussion with him and explain how it made me feel when I saw (or heard) that question. What I learned from that discussion was that he asks not because he’s trying to “catch” me or because he’s jealous (although at times he is) but because he cares and really honestly wants to know how my day went and what I did, just like I want to know more than just that he “worked” all day. I want to know the funny things that happened, or what he had for lunch, or that some asshole cut him off in traffic. He wants to know the “little” things that made up my day, too.
So, keep being honest with the new guy. You may feel like what you did today doesn’t stack up to what he did, but the truth is that we all do different things and he’s asking because he cares.
So, what did I do today? Well, it’s only 8am but thanks to insomnia, I’ve read about 45 minutes worth of blog posts, I’ve worked on a paper for school, and I ordered 8 photo collages (for another school project).. I hear hubby is up which means next on my list is a budget meeting, then I have to study for a mid-term exam… and somewhere in there I should probably consider eating breakfast.
One tip, I have found that keeping a “to done” list instead of a “to do” list helps me feel a lot better. There are so many little things that I do that I take for granted (working on a project while watching tv for instance, or just unloading the dishwasher) that it’s helpful to remind myself that I did those things, so that I don’t look back at the day and think I didn’t do much or anything. You are selling yourself way short, it sounds like you’ve had several really productive days. Dealing with any sort of gov paperwork is a nightmare, that alone would fill my entire day and leave me weeping.
Julie, it’s so great that you and your husband were able to clear up the misunderstanding! That’s actually how I meant my post – not that I didn’t feel I did anything important, or that he thought that, but just that what I do is so *different*, so out of the realm of what he would expect.
I like your idea of a “to done” list. I do that a little, but not enough. But you’re right, it really helps on those days that I feel like I’m not doing enough!
You sound very busy! Good luck with that exam! May I ask what you’re studying?
Ha ha, “pooping my pants.”
I really love that you are embracing honesty about your chronic stuff. We really can’t get all bummed about no one understanding when we hide our issues away and pretend how strong we are. I think showing vulnerability is strength, so I think it’s awesome you are advocating laying it out.
Another blogger said, “illness is not negativity.”
Thanks for the good read on my bad night. Hugs.
I’m sorry you were having a bad night! I hope today is better! I love that quote and will have to remember it. Earlier in this blog, probably 2 years ago, I wrote a post about how I was going to be honest about everything in my real life from now on, inspired by how good it feels to be honest on this blog. I’m still not ready to be public to the whole world (hence the anonymity on the internet) but be more honest with my family and friends has really helped them to understand. I’m still filtering what I tell the new guy I’m seeing, but I assume that as things continue, I’ll tell him more and more. I just don’t want to overwhelm him all at once. But the more honest I’ve been, the better things have been. Like you said, when we hide our issues, how can we expect anyone to understand?