Learning to Let Go
By Amy Crawford
One of the most significant lessons you learn with the onset of CFS is that once you expend your energy you don't get it back. The difference between this and a healthy person is that a healthy person who feels a little weary might choose to go for a run and then enjoy a post exercise high. Or organise a catch up with an energy inducing friend. That's not how it works with CFS. When/if you get up in the morning you have to decide what you NEED to do that day (rarely is it about what you WANT to do). So as an example, you really might need to get your dog out of the house, or to eat, or to pay one online bill. At my worst I could choose just one of those activities in my day - knowing that carrying out that one activity would deplete me of my prescious energy stores for the remainder of the day.
Let me set the scene. In my healthy state I am that highly organised and efficient (if not fastidious) person. Everything is in it's place. I'm perfectly timely (to the frustration I am sure of my friends). I have work related 'rules' around response times to emails and phone calls. I am a committed, communicative and loyal friend. I have high expectations of myself and (I am sure to the frustration of those in my life) of those around me. I don't need anyone to tell me where I have neglected any of my duties because you can be rest assured I've beaten myself up about it enough
So what happens to house work you may well ask?! Well that's a good question, because here in lay the challenge. How do you think an ordinarily highly efficient person copes lying around on her bed or couch all day looking at the floor desperate for a vacuum, thinking about the bathroom that hadn't been cleaned for a fortnight, the sheets that hadn't been changed, those friends you hadn't contacted in weeks, that dog who had been stuck inside all morning. Initially she doesn't cope well and it comes back to accepting your illness, recognising your now limited capabilities and making peace with that. If I hadn't learnt to let things like this go it would have truly negated anything positive I was doing for my recovery. Guilt, worry and anxiety (oh how they bubbled up!) became my arch enemies so it was vital that I got to a place where I recognised that these insignificant things simply didn't matter.
As many of you would know I had a minor relapse a few weeks ago and am yet to recover to the good health I was enjoying pre relapse. My energy stores are depleted so once again, each morning I make decisions about what NEEDS to be done. And all the stuff that I don't have the capacity to do? I just Let. It. Go. As an example, I change sheets on Sundays. On Sunday afternoon I had to remake my bed but I had nothing in me to iron my sheets and I'll be honest, that kind of niggled at me. Until I stopped and asked myself why it really mattered? Who really cared (bar me)? Same goes for the rest of my house work and everything else I have neglected in my life (including exercise) over the last few weeks.
As long as you are not hurting yourself of anyone around you learning to let go in many facets of our lives saves us so much precious energy, chronic illness or otherwise. Guilt, anxiety, unnecessary worry - all of these negative feelings do little but drain us of our positivity and exuberance and have huge implications on our health long term. Next time you feel one of these negative emotions ask yourself just how significant this situation is in the broader scheme of things. And when you realise how ridiculously pedantic you are no doubt being (directed straight at me FYI) give yourself some big deep breaths and congratulate yourself for letting go.