Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Final Frontier

"Space: the final frontier. 
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise
Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

Today I'm writing from a somewhat odd place.

I had a very uncustomary breakdown about a week or so ago. Without getting too in-depth I was overtired, over-stressed and generally in a pretty miserable frame of mind. It became one of the still very few times I allowed myself to admit (and have a good old cry about) the fact that being ill all the time isn't a great deal of fun.

It's very seldom that I actually allow myself to so much as think that, let alone come out and say it. I've always strived for positivity and a good mental attitude all the time. It took being sat down and given a bit of a telling off for me to wrestle with the cold hard truth that my goal was not only foolish but impossible. I'm always going to have bad days, times when I want nothing more than to throw the toys out of the proverbial pram and kick and scream until my situation stops being "unfair".

Sounds like a whine as soon as I add unfair, doesn't it?

(Here, now it's less of a whine!)

Well tough. Chronic illness isn't fair, but there's a healthy amount of difference between admitting that's the case and turning that simple truth into a reason for a bitter and hard-done-to attitude against life itself. So, in short, it's OK for me to admit that my situation is neither fair, reasonable or enjoyable.

What I then did was posted a very out-of-character vengeful and pretty vulgar rant about being ill over on my Tumblr page. It's something I have never once allowed myself to do - I've half-written it occasionally, but never posted it. I probably won't feel the need to do so again as it's not the sort of thing I do, but it felt good to allow myself to, giving myself permission as if I was giving myself a gift.

Why do I have so much trouble with the simple act of letting myself admit these things? Partially I'm still quite afraid of the way it can be perceived by others. I'm not by nature an attention seeker and I don't have time for "woe is me", I've better things to do. However I've never assumed those facts won't stop people from reading exactly what they want into what I write anywhere. Without consciously realising it I was censoring the things I committed to webpage, and in doing so I was starting to subconsciously censor what I was allowed to think and feel about my own health.

I'm a very sensible and practical person, but sometimes I need a telling off and a kick up the backside before I let myself slide too far into wild misery. It was good to be reminded that at the end of the day I can't control what anyone thinks of what I write, and that I should be writing for me and/or the intended audience, not with the thought in mind of what any unintended reader might think. I'm well aware TRB has such an unintended audience but as I'm managing just fine committing my thoughts to page here without worry, I should extend that same privilege to the things I write which are more personal elsewhere too.

Something else I decided as a result of this was to spend a good deal less time on other people and a little more on me. I became suddenly very aware of just how much time I was spending on Facebook and the like every day caring about everyone else and not looking after myself. So, aside from my admin duties over at Chronic Illness Cat I've really toned down the usage and have chat permanently switched off - this way I can just message the people I want to and not end up embroiled in conversations because I'm just too damned polite to tell people I don't really want to talk.

My own neglecting of looking after myself was indeed causing most of the problem. I've been on a temporary assignment this last week or so which means I have been unusually tired, but in the evenings this has meant I've curled up with a book, vegged in front of the TV or played Guild Wars 2, my new love. The ironing has gone unironed, and the socialising has been turned onto slow cook. It hasn't helped the tiredness at all (that is what it is, sadly) and due to being overtired I've still had odd episodes of sudden low mood, but I've felt generally a lot more relaxed in the evenings.

(The Refectory, Fountains Abbey)

For me there really is nothing like curling up in a hot bath with a good book to engender a feeling of rightness in the world (although as an aside the current book, Hilary Mantell's "Wolf Hall", hasn't quite earned "good" status yet. I shall give it time.)

Keeping on course of looking after myself, despite said tiredness the partner in crime and myself headed over to Fountains Abbey, one of the largest and most well-preserved Cistercian monastery ruins in the UK and (happily!) only an hour away. Whilst I realise as little as three years ago I could easily have walked around the whole site in a day, it was still nice to see the ruin (I am almost literally anyone's for old things which have fallen over) and to get a couple of hours walking in the fresh air.

Am I aching now? Yes. My ankles feel swollen even though they aren't because the joints are sore, and generally everything from the hips downwards aches. Was it worth it? Wholly and utterly.

So what have I learnt? That I need to allow myself a bit more freedom to be human and have low moods and bad days, and even days when I just want to behave like a complete brat (only occasionally for the latter), and I need to be a little more insistent in taking more "me" time on the whole as it really does make the world of difference.

All that was summed up rather succinctly the other day by a good friend: you're too nice for your own good.

Whilst it's true in how I behave for me and needs to alter in that sense, I still think there are far worse things I could be.

(It's my archway, you can't have it. Mine, I tell you!
Taken today at Fountains Abbey.)

Armed with the aftermath of said breakdown and the very helpful words of some of the lovely people around me, I'm going off very slowly exploring strange new worlds and intend to boldly go where no spoony has gone before. Going forward it's going to be a little more about me for a while, and a little less about anything else. As a very unselfish person that feels like an incredibly odd thing to write and accept, but sometimes it needs to happen and is a healthy thing, and as we know anything healthy has to be given a chance to shine.

What's with all the Star Trek, you ask? My copy of Into Darkness should arrive on Monday, and a good couple of hours of "me" time has being booked accordingly! Joking aside I do feel like I've taken a big leap this week in breaking down a few self-imposed barriers, and the change is all for the good. Long may it continue!

Does anyone else struggle to let themselves admit they're not very happy with their situation, or worry what others think? How do you overcome that?

Wishing you all many spoons xxx


  1. It's interesting... I've noticed that MANY people who live with chronic illness and pain struggle with the "too nice" problem. Is it just that a certain type of person (the type-A, always helping, always on the go) is more susceptible to the breakdown of our bodies into illness? Is it that the illness and the social context of the illness itself fosters this kind of attitude? I dunno. I guess it's a chicken-egg kinda thing.

    Also.. GW2?! You have just scored SO many cool points. My hubby is an avid player (I prefer to watch, though I've read some of the books), and it really is a good game. I played the original for a while, but it wasn't really up my alley.

    1. I read something on Invisible Illness Awareness Week earlier in the week which was called "Confessions of a Type A Personality" - it's in the Your Story part if you want to have a look - made me wonder about that sort of thing too. Is it being more susceptible to stress and not taking care of yourself because of that always on the go factor? Interesting thought anyway :-)

      Yes, the other half has played GW2 since the release and nagged me into attempting the last trial weekend - I was hooked! :D x

  2. I used to be a Type A/go-getter, volunteered for all sorts of things - then I got sick. My brain still hasn't caught up to the body. I have learnt to say "no", but there's a huge part of my psyche that really wants to say "yes" and then the guilt sets in.

    It's really tough when I truly want to help or participate and it's even tougher when factoring in the "being nice".

    A conundrum, for sure!