Springingtiger's Blog


Hard Lessons
August 21, 2016, 23:28
Filed under: disability, Health, Parenting, personal development | Tags: , , ,

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Recently a friend posted about her continuing health difficulties. She overexerted herself while suffering from influenza, now a year later she is still unwell and it is being explained as post-viral debility. That is a road down which I too have walked.

When I was a manager and training officer as well as being the Managers’ Association Branch Chairman I was busy. I had been busy in the Union Of Communication Workers negotiating around Operator Grades Restructuring and then I was promoted. As well as being in charge of night staff training I was travelling all around the country training people in Customer Care and I loved it. I also deputised for the Night Manager when he was away for any period. I also managed both a team of Operators and Senior Operators as well as the Exchange training Team, in one year I had to appraise thirty people. I enjoyed the responsibility of management, the satisfaction of running successful trainings, negotiating as am Association official, speaking at conference. I used to get the occasional cold and flu, but they didn’t stop me, I worked through them. Iworked through them until my body just gave up on me. During one bout of flu I became too ill to work and was forced to take a little time off. I rushed back to work as soon as I could, but was hit by bout after bout of illness. I was exhausted, tired all the time. At first I was diagnosed as being ‘post-viral’. Eventually my Doctor diagnosed me as having Chronic Fatigue and Immuno Dysfunction Syndrome. I spent months in bed , but gradually built up my levels of activity. However I was off for a year before after a phased return of several months I started working full time again. Sadly it was felt that the irregular shifts of the night staff would no longer suit me, nor the rushing around the country and so I worked for some years a a day staff team manager.

After a while I was so much better I began getting busy again, taking on all sorts of extra activities. What I had not realised was that the illness was dormant rather than gone. It was not long before I found my body rebelling again. I fell prey to every passing virus and the muscle pain and exhaustion returned. However I gradually learned to recognise when my CFIDS was getting ready to hit me again, and I learned to reign back my activity and rest. Didn’t always manage it and I paid, but I discovered that there was a particular physical sensation heaviness which when accompanied by a distinctive sore throat generally meant an attack was coming. Sometimes I still do too much especially when after weeks of rain I get a couple of good days to get on with the work in my garden. Several times I have paid heavily for excessive enthusiasm. This year I have been struggling with discomfort for much of the summer, but I haven’t hit the point of shut down because I have finally been self disciplined about pacing my activity. I have used a timer to measure my physical labour and made sure I rested. When I have been tired I have forced myself to accept that some tasks had to be postponed. What I have learned is that it is always possible to substitute a lighter physical activity for a heavy one. Sometimes I have to spend a day resting, some days I have been unable to stay on my feet for any period of time. However when I take the rest I need instead of just forcing myself to continue, the sooner I am able to get up and get on with living.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that my duty is to myself first and if I cannot function I cannot effectively serve others either. The frustration of my CFIDS when it was at its height aggravated my periodic depressions. Now I have learned that my happiness matters and restores my health and energy. I have found that being ill does not mean I have to be miserable. I have long used the Marx Brothers as a counter for an incipient depression, now I try to always do something pleasurable when unwell because it seems to promote recovery. I read, I watch DVDs, if I am up to it I go to the cinema or even use my over Sixties bus pass to take a day out (sadly I’ve only managed it once so far this year). It is important to have fun and it promotes recovery. Feeling good makes me feel better. Feeling good about myself makes me feel better and feeling good about myself means accepting what is so and being good to myself instead of wallowing in regrets or resenting what I can’t do. And sometimes I reflect on how lucky I am to be able to do all that I can when so many people are compelled by circumstance to do so much less. My illness was a blow, it was inconvenient, I believed for a while it was ruining my life, but what I now know is that it was teaching me the lessons about living sensible and looking after myself that I was too stupid or too busy to learn for myself.

As those who know me know, every day I practice gratitude as I journal. I cannot honestly yet say I am grateful for my CFIDS, but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from it, and I am glad I have learned to be kind to myself. People say, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” I think it’s probably better for everyone if you do unto yourself what you would have others do unto you. After all why should others treat you well if you aren’t aren’t willing to?

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