Usually when I feel especially bad I avoid people, even people who want to help me. Part of it is that I don’t have the energy to deal with being around people. Even talking is too exhausting. Part of it is that I don’t want them to see me in that state. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and that’s why several people have seen me when I feel especially bad. But I can count that number of people on my fingers. The other night, though, was probably the first time I voluntarily let someone see me that way.
I mentioned last month that I’m seeing someone. And it’s been going well. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten this far into a relationship. We’d known each other before so he knew I had some health issues, but it was a vague knowledge, acquired from being in the room while I spoke to others about it. But on our first date, I brought it up and answered some questions. Since then, I’ve answered more. I canceled our second date because I felt too exhausted. Our second second date was just hanging out at my place and watching a movie because I didn’t feel up to going out. He was very understanding. We haven’t been seeing each other for very long, and until this week, that was the worst I’d felt.
The other day a lot of stress and activity caught up with me and I had a BAD day. You probably know the kind. It started terrible and then got worse. I was barely getting by. We had a date planned for that night. We were just going to hang out at my place, but I wasn’t doing well. I spent the morning reading, but that became too difficult. I spent the afternoon sitting on the couch watching tv, but that became too much. I spent the evening lying on the couch, alternating between watching tv when I could and just thinking when the tv was too much. I had emailed him to let him know that I might not be up for getting together. He told me that I could let him know at the last minute. He was completely understanding. And for once, I didn’t feel any pressure at all. I knew that if I canceled, he’d understand. This was so unlike most social situations and was a huge relief!
So there I was, lying on the couch, needing to go to the bathroom for about 2 hours but not having the energy to stand up. And I knew exactly what I wanted. So at the last minute we spoke on the phone and I told him the truth: I wanted to see him, but I wasn’t sure he should see me this way. He asked, “Is this the last time you’re going to feel like this?” and I fought my natural instinct to be vague and simply said, “No.” He responded, “If this is going to work, I have to be able to see you like this.” I was floored. He was right, of course, but still…. I pointed out that since this would happen again, he could see me like this another time, maybe in a month or two when we knew each other better, but he insisted there was no time like the present to see me going through this. And he came over.
It was a bad night. I rallied for a bit around the time he arrived, but that didn’t last long. For a little while I was able to sit up while we talked. We cuddled. He held my hand, which was all I really wanted. He asked about how I was feeling and what caused it and things like that. I explained the best I could. It was hard to collect my thoughts, and he kept having to wait while I tried to form sentences. The brain fog was thick that night. We talked about other things, too. It was a good distraction. Most of the time I had to lie down. I wasn’t just fatigued, but weak. So weak. Most of the time my eyes were closed. Keeping my eyes open was too hard. Processing visual stimuli was too exhausting. So I lay there with my eyes closed and we talked. He offered to help me with household stuff, but I told him that all I wanted was for him to be there with me and hold my hand. And it was true.
It was hard for him. I could see it in his eyes, in his face, felt it in the tenseness of his muscles. I kept checking in with him, asking him how he was doing. He just kept saying he didn’t like to see me in pain. I couldn’t tell if there was more to it than that or not. But it was hard for him, I knew that much. It was especially hard when, in the middle of a sentence, I stopped talking, had trouble breathing, and grabbed my abdomen. The pain was intense. In an instant it had jumped from a 3 to a 7 on my pain scale. It came on suddenly, or so it seemed. My guess is that there were warning symptoms that I’d ignored because of the fatigue. I wasn’t able to look at him during that, so I couldn’t see his face, but I’m guessing it was surprising for him. I’d mentioned pain, of course, but he hadn’t seen it have any effect on me. Not until that moment.
He stayed with me until that pain passed and I said I wanted to go to sleep. Then he left.
He didn’t handle it all perfectly, but I doubt anyone would their first time out. He told some stories that were probably meant as a way to make light of pain and discomfort, but just sounded like he was trivializing it. He didn’t hold my hand enough. I would have loved for him to stay until I was in bed. He wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty damn close. And he seemed to handle it all ok. Still, I was nervous.
I woke up feeling significantly better. My thyroid was still swollen, my adrenals were still struggling. I was fatigued, but not weak. I ate something for the first time in 22 hours. I emailed him to let him know I was doing better, and he wrote right back. He’s a good man, a strong man, and I was almost certain he’d stick around, but of course there was that little niggling doubt. There were the voices of all of those who’d had negative experiences of this type. So I held my breath and waited, and then there it was: he casually brought up our plans for Friday night. As if it was no big deal. As if it was assumed we’d keep those plans. And I guess it was. But what a relief.
So we’ll be going out on Friday. I’m doing better each day, and I think that by Friday I’ll be able to keep our plans to go out. But I know that if I need to stay in, he’ll be ok with that too. Actually, I think he prefers to stay in. I’m the one who’d rather go out! I’m looking forward to showing him that I’m back to the way I was when he saw me last week, before that terrible night. And I want to talk to him about everything, to answer his questions, to take his temperature on this. We all have baggage. I know that. He certainly has his, too. It’s just that mine is very visible and very hard to ignore, and he had to face it early on.
Still, it’s hard not to notice that we have a date for Friday night. So far, he hasn’t run away.