As a person with a bunch of chronic conditions I’m sometimes told by so-called experts that I should do fun and meaningful things, even if it leads to a worsening a symptoms. This is especially common among healthcare professionals who work with people with chronic pain. People who advocate this approach to dealing with chronic pain seem to think that the positive outcome of doing something meaningful will be greater than the pain, and that will make it worth it. Avoiding things that trigger more pain is called avoidance or fear and is for some reason always considered irrational.
I wonder how much damage this idea has done to me. Even though I have never really believed it, it has affected me. It has made me think that there is some piece of truth in it. It has made me harm myself.
Yesterday I met with a friend and her kid. It’s the first time in a year that we have met. Actually, it’s the first time in a year that I’ve met with any friend away from keyboard. The circumstances were made to be as gentle to me as possible: I took breaks and rested, my partner did all cooking and practical stuff, we were outside in the garden to keep the noise level with two kids down. We had a great time. Still, I feel so bad today. My tachycardia is worse, fever is up, pain is increased. My sensitivity to light, noise, movement and moving visual impressions is horrible. I can’t brush my teeth because my muscles are too weak and sore to hold my electrical toothbrush. I can’t be in the same room as my kid. I can’t be outside. I’m isolated in a bedroom with curtains down, needing help with almost everything but can’t tolerate to have people around me.
I had a great time yesterday, but was it worth it?
No. It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth this.
I knew I was going to pay for seeing my friend and her kid, but I thought it was going to be worth it. I don’t know exactly how I was thinking, because I knew I was going to pay by feeling like I am today. There’s no surprise going on here. So why did I think it was going to be worth it?
Because a part of me still can’t let go of the ideas planted in my head by healthcare professionals who have no clue about how bad many symptoms get when I exert myself. I know they are wrong but I want to believe it. I want to believe it because I don’t want to have reached the point where I only see my kid, partner and healthcare professionals AFK. But it seems like I have.
How does it come that so many healthcare professionals seem to think that their job is to make people accept our situations by over-estimating our capacity and pushing ourselves, instead of learning to truely accept the limitations we actually live with? How does it come that these people, who brain-washed me into thinking that harming myself is a good thing, never have to take any responsability?
I know the answers to these questions. I just have a hard time believing that it’s true.
(Update: With ME the thing where healthcare professionals push us to over exert ourselves is especially bad because we don’t always recover, we risk permanent harm. I’m well aware of this but just realized that I don’t make it clear in the post.)