There are times in everyone’s life where they have to stretch themselves, be it financially, emotionally, time wise, or even taking on extra stress. Sometimes it’s for something we have deemed “worth it”. Other times it’s an unexpected life event. After a while something gives and we go back to the amount we can deal with- this new state of being isn’t sustainable. We just can’t live without emotional support or respect, physically exhausting ourselves everyday, or feeling stuck in a downward spiral. Not indefinitely. (I mean “can’t” in more than just a physical, breathing and blood pumping, sense, but in an emotional and/or mental sense- a “whole being” sense).
Life with CFS means my stretching moments are of a smaller scale than others’. When I stretch, it’s to do something most people do day after day, month after month. I relish the self-induced stretching, because it’s usually to do something that makes me feel normal and part of the world. And when life throws a curve ball, it usually takes a bigger toll on me than it would on someone without CFS. Like getting an infection, or a constantly changing end goal (or doctors appointment).
Over the last few months, I have purposely stretched for a few events that I deemed “worth it”. My 10 year uni reunion. My brothers wedding. I am currently taking a staggered, six-weekend permaculture course (where each weekend is as full and stressful as the reunion and wedding) where I will get certified to design permaculture gardens. And I am hoping to attending a friends wedding this month. I have learned a good deal from these times of stretch, and have suffered from them too. For weeks afterwards I deal with symptom flare ups, and need outside help (such as acupuncture) just to help my body find it’s way back to my new-normal again.
But learning doesn’t equal acceptance. I get frustrated. Angry even. I keep hoping the next event won’t have the same devastating effects to my body and health. A limp pool of flesh is hardly an existence. And I find myself torn. Do I avoid all events and feel the full, crushing weight of giving up (different from letting go), or do I continue to pay the physical admission price for the emotional joys of being able to take part?
I have (carefully) chosen to pay the price. Obviously I have to prioritize. Though explaining that my health comes first is not always easy. Making sure I make it back to new-normal after every event is the way I justify my excursions. If I can’t, my fear is that a second blow would have devastating, long lasting (possibly irrevocable) implications. Never knowing what’s around the corner health wise is terrifying. I could wake up tomorrow bed bound. Or maybe in a few months I’ll be able to do more than I can today, and perhaps a few years from now I’ll be able to take part in so much more of life. Living with hope and fear is not always easy- weighing risk against possible gains- especially with so much at stake. But when choosing when to stretch- make sure it’s for hope’s sake, not fear’s.