Am I doing enough?

December 15, 2015

A friend called me and was upset. She had just spent a while talking to a friend of a friend with the same diagnosis as her, but who was doing a lot better because she had done a lot more research and tried many more treatments. My friend felt like she wasn’t doing enough. I knew that feeling well. I’ve had it many times myself. Maybe you have, too?

I think it’s common to feel that way. After all, we’re taught that when we’re get sick we go to the doctor and get better, so when we don’t get better right away, we wonder if it’s our fault. Then we read about someone who was magically cured through their own research and we wonder why we haven’t done the same.

Of course, not every illness is easily cured by a doctor. And those magic cures are often individualized treatment plans that were figured out through years of research and trial and error. We see the results, but we don’t see the backstory. Meanwhile, we’re all in the middle of our own backstories.

The thing is, if you’re doing all that you can, that’s enough. It has to be. I know people with my same diagnoses who can not only work, but jog every day and go hiking. That’s great for them, but I can’t do those things and thinking I “should” isn’t helpful. In the same way, someone might be able to do a lot more research than I can. And that’s ok. Someone else can’t do as much as me, and that’s ok too.

About 4 years ago, I started to do my own research. It was hard. Damn hard. I was so fatigued that I could rarely read more than 5 pages at a time without falling asleep. The brain fog was so bad that I had to read each paragraph multiple times before I understood it. Often I read a few pages, fell asleep, woke up with the book on my lap, and had to reread what I’d just read because I’d forgotten it all. But I kept going because I was determined. It paid off, because it led to me doing so much better. Sounds like something everyone should measure up to, right?

What you didn’t see (because I’d only started this blog earlier that year) was the several years before that where I’d given up hope. You didn’t see the years, yes YEARS, that I hadn’t wanted to do any research at all and had resisted encouragement from others. You didn’t see how long it took me after doing the research to actually put any of it into practice. And yes it has helped, but I’m nowhere near “better.”

Would my health be better now if I hadn’t put off doing research for years? Maybe. Maybe not. A lot of what I found wasn’t available 5 years earlier. I wasn’t sick enough back then to be willing to try some less conventional approaches. And it doesn’t matter. Because I did what I felt ok with at the time.

I wasn’t ready to do the research then. And that’s ok. I was doing the best I could. Physically I put all I had into working, exercising and physical therapy, taking care of myself, and having just a bit of a social life. Emotionally, I didn’t have the capacity to do the research. And that’s ok. I did as much as I could. So it was enough.

Sooner or later, you’re going to feel like you’re not doing enough. When you do, remember that if you’re doing your best, that’s enough. One day your best might be hiking up a mountain. Another day your best will be brushing your hair. Whatever it is, it’s enough.

As for my friend, she’s feeling a bit better now. I told her everything I’m telling you now, and then some. I pointed out that the person she spoke to had had her symptoms for many more years than my friend had. She’d had more time to try things. She’d had more money available to try things. We don’t know how severe her symptoms were or weren’t. And I pointed out that my friend has recently tried several new things and is currently waiting to see if they work. She’s already seen some small improvement. Waiting isn’t fun or exciting or sexy, but it’s necessary. It’s nothing to feel bad about because it has to happen. The person she spoke to had a lot of time to try things out and wait to see what happened. There’s no point in my friend feeling bad because her “during” doesn’t compare to someone else’s “after.”

So what about you? Do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough? And when you do, how do you handle it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Yes, I’m one of them

December 9, 2015

I was talking to some friends about some tough decisions I need to make about benefits. One of them said, more than once, that I might need them for a while, but those benefits aren’t meant for my “demographic.” They’re not for people like me. But the thing is, they really are.

I understand why she said it. We both grew up in middle class families in the same middle class neighborhood. We both went to college, then graduate school. We both got middle class jobs. We followed all the “rules” and now we’re supposed to have our happy middle class lifestyles. She is a stay at home mom. Her husband earns a very large salary. She has that middle class lifestyle.

I don’t.

There’s an idea that benefits are meant for other people. The people who aren’t middle class. The people who don’t have jobs. Well, as it turns out, that’s me.

Those benefits are for people with physical and mental illness. People who can’t work. Yup, me again.

People think they’re for people who are older. But they aren’t. They’re for people of all ages. Including people in their 30s like me.

My friend means well. She tries to understand. She is one of the only people in my life who knew me before I was sick, and she understands my health problems better than most. But she can’t accept that it’s permanent because she doesn’t want to. It hurts her to think of me in pain. I get that. I feel the same when someone close to me is in pain; I pretend it can’t be serious or permanent, even when it obviously is. That’s how she feels about me.

But it doesn’t change things.

So yes, I’m one of those people. The other ones. The ones who aren’t us. Except sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re one of us. Sometimes we’re one of them. It doesn’t matter if you grew up rich or poor or somewhere in between, whether you got advanced degrees or didn’t finish high school, you can be too sick to work. And when that happens, benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, and section 8 are helpful. Even when we don’t want them, we need them.

Like it or not, we’re one of them.

Which is worse: knowing or not knowing?

December 2, 2015

My surgery was just over a month ago and for me, the worst was not knowing what to expect. Not knowing if it would work out ok. Not knowing.

For me, that’s always the worst.

But I was talking to a friend yesterday and she said the opposite. She has a surgery coming up that she’s had before and for her, the worst is knowing what to expect. She knows just how bad it could be.

To know or not to know- That is definitely the question.

When I don’t know my imagination runs wild, and what I come up with is always worse than the reality.

But what if it wasn’t?

Which do you prefer? Do you want to know what to expect or would you rather not? When you see doctors, do you ask them for ever detail you can think of (like I do) or do you get only the most basic of information, preferring not to know in advance?

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