Vacations: A Harsh Reality of Chronic Illness

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Over the weekend my husband and I took a short vacation to Louisville, KY to celebrate our 15th anniversary and spend some quality time together. I did have a good time, but I must admit that I dread and sometimes even regret vacations just as much as I look forward to them.

Why? Simple. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Vacationing when you have CFS sucks. Big time. Planning the vacation wears you out. Packing wears you out. The travel wears you out. Even though I don’t do the driving, I am still exhausted by the time we even get to our destination. Often, as soon as we get to our hotel I immediately have to lay down for at least a couple hours to recuperate, even if it is only a 2 or 3 hour drive as this one was.

The main excursion we planned was to the Louisville zoo. We had never been there before and both my husband and I love animals. Luckily, it wasn’t a huge zoo, but by the time we had toured about half of it, I was in really poor shape. I had to sit on each bench we came by and rest. I even had to make do with the floor a few times and just collapsed. I was nauseated, felt like passing out, developed a migraine-like headache, and felt extremely overheated, even though it wasn’t that hot out and I stayed hydrated. Heck, most of the buildings were even air conditioned. THIS is what living with CFS is like.

I didn’t get to see much of the rest of the zoo. I was too busy looking for places to rest and recuperate for the trek back to the car. My legs ached so badly and felt so weak that I feared they would give out on me multiple times. My entire body felt like I had been run over or slammed into by something big and heavy. Somehow I did make it back to the car (after resting many, many times on the way there), and then we went directly to our hotel so I could recuperate for the rest of the day. I didn’t even have the stamina to go out for dinner a few hours later, so we ate at the hotel.

I went to bed early, hoping I would feel better in the morning, which didn’t really happen. The next day we visited a cool indie bookstore I had wanted to go to, but I was almost too tired to even enjoy that. We went and found a place by the Ohio River to sit and watch barges pass by, which was peaceful and relaxing. During the drive times to our locations, I curled up with a pillow and laid my seat back to doze.

By the time we headed back for home, I was too exhausted to care about much of anything. When we arrived home, I went almost straight to bed, even though it was only 5pm. The next day (Labor Day), my hip and back were so sore (with a pinched nerve thrown in), that I spent most of the day laying in bed watching a Lake Placid marathon on the Syfy Channel. Any form of movement was excruciating.

All of this makes me wonder if vacations are really worth the trouble. It also makes me wonder if maybe sometime soon I will need to get a motorized chair to even survive simple outings like this. I hate to give in and do that, but my worsening symptoms make it an almost certain possibility eventually.

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Support Group and Social Exhaustion

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Today hasn’t been the best day mental-health wise. I just woke up around an hour ago and it took me until now to drag myself out of bed because I honestly just didn’t want to move, let alone get up and face the day.

Yesterday wasn’t a good day either. I’m not sure what was going on, but I felt sick and exhausted the whole day. I did make myself go to a group meeting yesterday (a recovery from religion support group). My husband is helping to lead the group and it is fascinating to hear everyone’s personal stories about religion and how specific forms of indoctrination affected each of them differently. Some of those who come truly have experienced abuse at the hands of religious leaders and organizations, much like I have in my past (mostly due to my messed up family).

The meeting lasted almost three hours, which socially exhausted me. Maybe some of you don’t experience social exhaustion, but when you are autistic, being social takes so much focus and attention to do it “right”, that it always leaves me burned out and just wanting to go home and nap. Add to that, the social anxiety I had about going to the group in the first place, and I guess it is no wonder that I felt like crap both physically and mentally most of the day.

I think today I’m just going to try to take it easy and recover from the exhaustion as much as I can. I need to have my precious time alone and indulge in some distractions to take my mind off real life. I definitely welcome hearing from you guys though!

Physical Therapy and CFS

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Having CFS/ME really sucks sometimes. On Tuesday I went to my traction physical therapy appointment for my bulging disc in my neck and they asked me to do a few minutes of really easy, simple exercises that should have been a breeze. Instead, here I am, 35 years old, looking fairly healthy and fit, and yet, I had to constantly take breaks from even these few little stretching and postural exercises. It makes me feel like I’m really living in an 80-year-old body.

It is embarrassing as well, because I fear the judgment of those who see how little I am actually able to do. I worry they will just judge me as lazy or think I am just being difficult, which is entirely the opposite of my personality. I’m the kind of person who goes out of their way NOT to cause trouble or slow things down. I often wish other people really understood how crippling chronic fatigue syndrome can be. For instance, all my adult life I ALWAYS took a shower every single day and washed my hair. Now, I’m lucky if I can find the energy to wash my hair every other day, even though my OCD traits are going crazy at the change in my lifelong routine. Even typing these blog posts requires frequent breaks.

Sorry if this post seems a bit whiny, it just sometimes hits home over little simple things, how much my life is affected by my new physical limitations, and it is hard to accept.

* Art by Maranda Russell