Today is not an easy day for me. Day three of a massive lethargy spike, day two of the new year and what seems to be the start of another painful flare up.
Days like today are difficult for me to deal with. After a mostly sleepless night of tossing and turning, unable to escape the pain, I got up this morning after Manthing left for work. I did the usual routine – breakfast, painkillers and internet – before crawling back away for more restlessness. There’s no real way to describe the feeling of being so tired your eyes are closing on you and all you want to do is pass out, but the constant dull ache somewhere in your body is stopping that. It’s like being under the surface of a lake, dying for air, but some hidden force stops you from breaking that surface and inhaling a sweet breath. Sleep is something that the body needs for more than just a giddy thrill in the form of dreams. It gives the body a chance to wind down and repair things that need fixing. It gives your muscles a chance to un-knot and relax. It gives your mind a chance to process all the things that you’ve seen, heard, felt, touched, smelled or tasted. It’s a chance for your body to go through and make sure you’re ready to face another day.
To give you an idea of what it’s like living in my body, you need to start with a feeling of exhaustion. Not the “I’ve run a marathon and feel good” kind of exhaustion, but the kind that you had back in highschool. The kind that came from leaving assignments to the last minute, having to use all of your mental faculties to get the work done at the eleventh hour, and by that I mean 4am with a 6am start for school. You were lucky if you got maybe an hour’s sleep before you were up again and shoveling food into your mouth, barely tasting the overload of sugar but hoping it would be enough to kick you through the day. You’d be falling asleep on the bus and perk up momentarily when you saw your friends, but then spend the next 5 classes desperately jerking awake as your head slipped off your hands towards the desk because you had nodded off.
You couldn’t think straight. It was like trying to drink a thickshake through a soda straw. The content was there, somewhere, but it sure as hell wasn’t coming your way. It felt light you had weights attached to your feet as you dragged yourself home. More than anything else, you just wanted to throw yourself into bed – even without dinner, just so you could get some sleep. Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to, and you still had homework to complete for the following day. Finally, at about 10pm, you flung yourself at the bed, but by the time you got comfy, you were suddenly so tired, so exhausted that your body had gone past the point of wanting to sleep. You spend the next three hours wondering what cruel god was laughing at you from a distance as you watch paint peel from your roof in a dark room until you eventually drift off to sleep that leaves you no more refreshed than the night before.
That was kinda fun, right?
Now, do it again. And again. More. Add adult worries to this mix. How are you going to pay the bills? Why aren’t you doing anything with your life? These become anxiety, fears and thoughts that keep you awake even when you’re past the point of exhaustion. Still falling asleep? No. Your body is in pain. Always in pain and not the same spot, either. It’s a wandering pain, like a balloon bumping around a room when you turn the fan on. Sometimes it’s here, sometimes over there. It’s usually a dull pain, like someone’s slowly crushing your fingers in a vice (oddly enough, how I feel after having typed this much already). If you still think you’re capable of crashing out, at random intervals your body will send scream-worthy stabbing, searing pain through your muscles. You won’t know when they’re coming and you don’t know how bad they’ll be. You could be just crawling into bed, just about to pull the covers over, when a knee pain will make you catch your breath. You could be just on that gentle cusp of sleep when a tearing pain feels like someone’s flayed your back. You’ll scream. Or at least, you’ll do your best not to, because your partner is in bed next to you and he needs his sleep because he has work in the morning. You find that, if you lay still long enough, things might ease up or you might slowly drift off, but it’s not an easy process.
You eventually manage some semblance of sleep, but wake up several times during the night due to either more pain, or nightmares of your childhood. Faces that have come back to mock you while you rest. You fight in your sleep. You wage wars on an unimaginable scale. You fight deamons and dragons that have names like ‘Dad’ and ‘we’re poor’ and, sometimes, even the pain follows you into your sleep. You wake up feeling awful. Or, that is, if you manage to get back to sleep at all. You laugh when people talk about a good night’s sleep.
The alarm goes off and the silence is broken. It is a new day, whether you are well rested or not. There are things to be done. Up. Up! Get up! You’re awake now, your body is aware of this. In the first 5 minutes of waking up, you get your first taste of what your pain levels are going to be for the day, if they aren’t what woke you up in the first place. Get out of bed, mind the knee. You have to make sure it pops in place before you put pressure on it. You know what happened last time. Shuffle to the bathroom, make pained faces as your stiff foot protests and your toes scream. Avoid eye contact with the mirror. You don’t really want to see what this morning has brought. Use the toilet and wince as your shoulder protests when you try to wipe. You pop your knee standing up from the toilet and your back spazms. Painful, but you’re used to this routine at least.
Go have breakfast. Despite cooking the night before having angered your knees, it generally means you’ll have left overs to eat of a morning. This is great. You don’t have to wrestle with the cap on the milk bottle, worry about pouring birdseed in your bowl instead of cereal, and if it’s something that needs to be heated, you can ease the ache in your hands by wrapping them around the bowl. Never mind the nausea. That’ll pass. It’s just your body protesting about not getting the sleep it needs. Take your morning meds and hope that the throbbing pain in your head and neck ease off. Check the news, your emails, your facebook. People getting on with their lives. Offers for Viagra. Another shooting. You’ve been sitting here for half an hour and haven’t finished your food. Hurry up and eat. There’s stuff to do today.
You run a small business. You’re the head honcho, the bossman. You’re also the marketing director, the production manager, the quality tester, the line assembly worker. You’re the receptionist, the accountant, the HR department and the one that makes sure we don’t run out of materials. Get to work. You have three orders due this week, need new fabric, have to work on developing ideas so you can have them in production before your big event in April. You need more stock made for the markets – which is this weekend, by the way. Did you forget? Your marquee still isn’t here so you can’t work on that setup. You’re out of leather items, but you need a steady hand to work the knife and the painkillers haven’t kicked in yet. Do your books. You get a few sales online now and then and all of these need to be recorded. Don’t forget to post on the facebook page and be chipper about it. Nobody likes mopey advertising. Have you booked the hotel for your event in April? You should do that. I know you’re waiting on other people but you’ll have to foot the $400 up front and then collect it off people later. You need more materials to complete work, but you’re now dizzy from the painkillers and can’t drive the car. Well done.
We’re going to sit down for a while. Maybe take a nap.
Wait. It’s 5pm? That’s manthing at the door. God, you only lay down for half an hour. Just enough to get some energy back, right? Shit. Come on. Time to get up. Dinner isn’t going to make itself and you can’t afford to buy dinner every night. Speaking of, how’s that weight loss going. Aren’t you trying to fit a dress two sizes down by April? Throw something together for dinner. Eat at your desk. You can’t really taste it anyway. Between chews, you notice you clench your jaw. You’re feeling a little stressed. The lethargy is still there but there’s stuff to do. Got to clean up your work stuff. Tomorrow is a Game Day here where you and your friends will take over the universe in a space ship with the aide of your trusty dice. Got to clear the tables and turn the back fridge on. Wait, manthing is washing the dishes and needs you to dry first. You’re dead on your feet and everything hurts, but you stand up and do it anyway. He mistakes your short answers and general silence as you being cranky about something. You tell him you’re just sore. “You’re ALWAYS sore,” he replies. Part of you wants to cry every time you hear that. You know. Oh god, do you know. The other half is too tired to care and just keep on track with the task at hand. By the way, you’ve forgotten to transfer rent today. You’re now a day late, well done.
Oh, you mean it’s bed time? But the next lot of painkillers haven’t kicked in yet. You’re actually enjoying the little bit of a video game you’re playing. It works as a nice distraction, but it’s bed time now, manthing says. You want to crawl into bed, lay your head on his chest and talk to him about all the things you got done today and ask him about work. You want to. By the time the painkillers kick in, manthing is past the point of talking and you crawl over him to get to your side of the bed. You flop down and ride out the three or so minutes it takes for your body to stop screaming as you take pressure off all of your joints. Your back spazms again and you gasp. Manthing grumbles. He was just about asleep, but he rolls over and cuddles you. You wriggle in and ignore the arm under your pillow, the hot breath on your neck and the odd grope. Just being next to him makes things better. You’re still in pain, god are you in pain, but somehow it’s more manageable. Now, let’s try this sleep thing again.