“Pace yourself, you’re going to tire yourself out.”
“One day at a time.” (The worst!)
“Everything will happen in its own time.”
I’m sure a few people might have said these things to you (amongst others) while you are recovering. They are all said with love and are meant to help you, but can often have the opposite effect and make you feel more deflated than ever.
Pacing during my Recovery
Let me say first of all that I HATE the word ‘pacing’. Even though I haven’t had to consciously pace myself as much as I did when I was healing, the word still makes me shudder. I’m generally not one of those people who claims to hate anything, but in this case, ‘dislike’ really doesn’t cut it.
The thing is, I didn’t want to pace myself. I didn’t want to go slowly. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need to change my habits. I truly believed that once I got going, I’d just keep walking and I’d take this magical journey that would mystically transform me into my former, athletic self.
Obviously, you know as well as I do that this little type-A tactic of mine didn’t work. Once I got going, my ego convinced me that I was ok, but falling into bed when I got home and having a 4 hour ‘nap’ showed me otherwise. My ego screamed at me for taking a rest and ‘giving in’. Sometimes, my ego was on complete overload and I’d be in bed for weeks following a relapse. To be honest, it was always weeks, not days to get out of these relapses at this time. The relapses period became shorter and shorter, but it took me a long, long time to get there.
How I paced myself
To be honest, I couldn’t even begin to entertain the idea of pacing until I was at about 50% of my normal functionality. Thinking about it before then was just laughable, as I couldn’t even support my own body weight or sit up in bed. I had to have a good laugh at the situation and myself to get me through the relapses (more on that in another post).
At the time, getting to the places below without fainting or convincing myself I was going to faint was a gold medal for me, a Pulizer prize, a New York Times bestseller. There was never usually anyone there to celebrate with me (I was still stubbornly independent), but sometimes I could have cried with utter delight and elation when I reached my (usually not-so-exciting) destination.
My favourite excursions included:
- going along the corridor to the bathroom from my bedroom
- going downstairs to get a drink or have a nibble
- a car journey of 2 minutes without feeling like I was on death’s door
- the corner shop which was literally a 3 minute walk away (handing my money over was always a delight- I’d made it that far!)
The return journey on all of these trips was when the real fear would set in. Had I overexerted myself? (What an idiot!) Would I actually be able to make it back? What if I fell over in the street?! People would look at me like I was completely crazy (“Why isn’t she at work? Is she drunk or something?!”).
I’m pretty sure that at some stage or another, you’ve been through the absolute agony and embarrassment of seeing how little ground you’ve actually covered when you’re walking and in the same breath, beaten yourself up for being so pathetic and also sweated in panic about how you were actually going to do it. (“I don’t have my cellphone with me for the ambulance- gah!”)
How to Pace Yourself with Chronic Fatigue
Ultimately, after more set-backs than I care to admit, one thing I did learn was this:
My body wasn’t actually as much of a problem as I thought it was. It was my mind that stood in the way.
I was genuinely shocked to realise how much I had been getting in my own way, how negative my whole attitude towards pacing myself had been.
Here are a few things to remember when you’re sick of hearing the word ‘pacing’ and you’re tempted never to leave the house again (just in case):
- Your body is not broken, neither is your mind.
- If you’re struggling with pacing, you probably still have some way to go towards accepting your illness. You’re only human and we’re not invincible.
- You’re probably panicking when you leave the house because your sense of security and wellbeing has changed (to be honest, it had to)- what you’re feeling is completely normal in the circumstances.
- You are not the only person to have felt like this and you won’t be the last. Everyone with CFS feels exactly the way you do to one degree or another.
- The fact that you’re evening thinking about pacing yourself or trying to get out the house shows how strong and courageous you are. Don’t let yourself forget that.
- Do not compare yourself to other people- even if they seem healthy and well, we all have our little crosses to bear. Withhold judgement.
- Don’t just think about pacing in terms of CFS/M.E.- think about it in terms of a life lesson, blazing your own trail and moving graciously at your own beautiful pace. It will always be perfect for you at any given moment.
I would love to hear your stories about pacing below, my lovelies- did you find it as frustrating as I did?! How are you learning to pace yourself?
Love and surrender,