Communication Breakdown

There was a point in my climb up the career ladder that I started talking about “the email problem.” At the time, most of my job was spent “in the field” — opening restaurants, traveling from store to store, hiring, training and meeting with employees. As my shifts were mostly on the floor, observing restaurant operations, the email problem grew and grew and I would spend all of my “downtime” trying to catch up. I never sat in front of a TV or ate a meal without my laptop, I stopped reading books. Eventually, I was in an office full-time and I still could not get on top of the computer work, even being at a desk all day. This was before I had a blog and blog comments to answer or Facebook messenger or WhatsApp. This was before I knew that Facebook groups existed, before I had cultivated friendships with 100% online communication. And this was before I got sick and wanted to ingest every bit of information that might help me. I have saved, bookmarked and sent hundreds of articles, educational videos and podcasts to myself, in different places, on different devices. I have 50K+ emails that I want to deal with, but I’ve compartmentalized them into some dark room in my mind so I can function. It’s now an “information problem” or a “communication problem.” It’s unmanageable. But I do it to myself.

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My personal gmail accoount.

I’ve always had a methodical way about how I tackle life. I like to do things in order, finish them and file them away. When I haven’t dealt with something, it becomes a small weight in my mind and, though I may look as if it’s not bothering me, it is. They are. They’re heavy. My husband is the complete opposite. He can’t understand why the ripening tomatillos and our over-burdened plum tree stress me out. He has no problem with piles of disorganised paperwork and chaotic junk drawers all over the house. If he doesn’t answer emails, it doesn’t weigh on him. Come to think of it, that’s another thing that drops little lead pellets in my brain: messages that I’ve sent that don’t get replies. They don’t weigh as much as emails I haven’t answered, but they still take up room at the back of my mind. I like discourse: unfinished conversations nag at me, even if those “conversations” are links I send my husband in a PM. A month later, I’ll say, “Did you see that video? You never mentioned it.” God, my skull is full of thousands of ball bearings. No wonder my neck always hurts.

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I often wonder how I would handle this illness if I were more like my husband. He is a content person. That sentence sums up our greatest difference. He is content with our home, with his routine, with his simple diet. He is content with his body, with his habits (good and bad), with his legacy, or lack thereof. The truth is, the only things my husband wants to change are things that I tell him need to be changed for my happiness.  I have never been content with anything, ever, never. My need to experience… it’s like a rabid, ravenous hunger. New places, new people, new information. It’s like a constant electric current that makes contentment the least accessible state of being imaginable. When I’m at home, I want to be on the road or on a plane. When I’m traveling, I long for my garden haven. I ruminate on the past and worry about the impact I will have made on the world when I’m gone. I’m critical of my body and chastise myself for my bad habits. I want to watch every movie and TV show, I worry about all of the wonderful music I am missing, I collect hundreds of books that I never read. I WANT ALL THE FOOD.

More and more, I realise that this fundamental trait is the reason I don’t sleep. Every night, I put it off to do/read/watch one more thing. Every morning, I can’t wait to get up and tackle things, even if that “tackling” is lying on my back in a dark room, looking at my phone. It doesn’t matter if I wake at 6am or 11am, as soon as I am conscious, my brain is like a bullet train. A bullet train that can repeatedly dichotomize and travel down dozens of branching tracks with the same enthusiasm… but they all fall off the a cliff after a very short journey. Because that’s the real problem. This year, my worst symptoms by far are from the shoulders up. There’s still a lot going on in my body as a whole, but the truly limiting factor is my brain. I don’t have enough hours of neurological clarity to manage 1/10th… no, 1/50th, maybe less… of what I want to and what I used to. That is now my true disability.

Recently, I’ve had a few people ask how I am because I haven’t written much lately. The short answer is I’m okay. There’s so much I want to write about, I simply stopped writing. Mostly because I know if I hit that cognitive wall while writing, I won’t be able to manage anything else, like preparing food. Also, when I gained some ground, it quickly got filled with doing more chores for myself to alleviate my husband and tackling my to-do list. I read all messages and emails (for the most part), even if I am remiss in replying. I promise you, all contact touches me deeply and adds fuel to my tank. It is never not appreciated on a very conscious level. So, bear with me and, if you can tune into your psychic abilities, you’ll hear me sending my love to each of you and we’ll never feel out of touch.

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My Funny Valentine

As a Valentine’s Day present to my husband, I decided to get marginally dressed again. I put on a bra and a red dress. Unfortunately, the dress, although clean, hadn’t been worn in a while and it smelled musty, so I switched to a pink sweater (pink and red are really living on the cutting edge of colour for me; they scream: I’m dressed up! I’m making an effort! ~ 90% of my wardrobe is black and grey) and leggings that have pockets and corduroy-type ribbing, so they give the impression that they are more civilised than mere cotton leggings. And I put on my new boots. I won’t take a picture every time I put boots on, I swear, but I never thought there would be a pair of flat boots that I liked and, more importantly, were proportional to my munchkin frame.

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Unfortunately, after two changes of clothes, my battery is almost dead and I’m dizzy and incredibly drained. I woke up feeling okay, excited that I wasn’t feeling evilly ill, but how dare I pull on leggings that take a bit more effort than PJs and bend down to put on boots rather than slip my feet into slippers? It was too much and it’s only 11am. I know I will be wiped out when my husband gets home.

The entire plan was: get dressed, brush hair and maybe put on make-up. Although, all my make-up is 2+ years old and putting it on means holding my arms up in front of my face, which is a lot of energy, and it also means having to take it off. Exhausting. I wracked my brain to think if there was something I could do to surprise him. Cook dinner? No way. Clean the house ~ or even just the sitting room? Nope. Buy a present? Too late to do it online and I wouldn’t know what to get, anyway. And we’re trying to conserve our savings. So, I think my present is going to be yet another card thanking him for saving my life every day (because, make no mistake, I would be in a very different predicament without him) and wearing clothes that kind of fit me.

The funny thing about my husband is, he would never notice what I’m wearing. I could be sitting on the couch in a ball gown and he wouldn’t bat an eye. I kind of love that about him. I certainly never have to feel self-conscious about looking slovenly. He tells me I’m beautiful even on my sickest days. Love is blind.

One of the most distressing symptoms over the last year is hair loss. Never could I have predicted that I would be upset about my hair. I don’t really like hair. I’ve always preferred men with shaved heads and, half the time when I’m talking to people, I’m thinking about how much I want to tuck their hair behind their ears or put their hair in a ponytail. I find it distracting (and kind of gross) that every woman on tv has what I call “hair curtains”. Long waves down the sides of their face that are pulled forward so they have this weird part in the back of their head and no hair down their back.

Hair curtains.

Hair curtains.

Weird back of head.

Weird back of head.

So, what do I care if I have less hair? Well, my hair loss makes me look even more sickly because it is concentrated in the front and on top. You can see my scalp too much and there are clumps of short hairs that are either breaking off or just won’t grow any longer. I was on a Facebook group and someone mentioned that, because she was in the military and constantly wore her hair in a bun, she was going bald on the top of her head, so she cut her hair short. Light bulb! I’ve worn my hair up every day for the last 17 months that I’ve been housebound. So, I’m cutting it short. I’ve had my hair very short before, so it’s not a big deal, but I do have a few concerns: 1) I can’t dye my hair now, so there is a lot of grey. I’m not sure how I’ll like short greying hair. 2) I can’t wash my hair very often and, when it’s dirty, it’s nice to be able to put on a hat and still have the illusion of clean from the long hair coming out below the hat. 3) You can put long hair up in such a way that it gives the illusion of being more “dressed up”. But none of these things will sway me because I have to wear a CPAP! The headgear on a CPAP mask is hell with long hair and is undoubtedly contributing to the hair loss.

My sister’s hair stylist is going to make a house call, bless her heart. I wish I had longer, lovelier hair and I could donate it like Marie did, but I just don’t have the patience to grow it. The point of all this is to say that I guarantee my husband doesn’t even notice when I cut my hair. I have left the house with long blond hair and come back with a dark brown bob and, even when prompted, he couldn’t figure out what was different. When he met me, my hair was very short and fiery red. He’s pretty much seen it all. Luckily, days before I met him he had shaved off his long hippy hair. I sometimes wonder if I would have fallen for him if he had a ponytail. Probably. Love is blind.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

1998

1998

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Things You Can Do To Help

Some of you have asked how you can help me. I have a tendency to say, “You just did” because knowing that people care to help and that I won’t be left to die makes things so much easier. But there are a few things that occurred to me the last few days that you can do to help me (or that you already do do) (do do ;-)):

  1. When you leave comments on my blog, leave voicemails, send emails, texts etc., it means the world to me. I may not get back to you right away or ever ~ the blog is about as much sitting in a chair at a computer as I can manage ~ but, I thank you and appreciate you and can not adequately express what it means to have your support.
  2. If anyone is ever bored, I need help finding a C.F.S./M.E. specialist and figuring out if there is anything I can do to get better or contribute to the research. Can I be a guinea pig? Do I need to fly to some doctor somewhere? And not just good doctors like the ones at the Mayo Clinic, but doctors specialising in this disease. Aren’t they just dying for textbook cases like mine? Don’t they want to take biopsies of my muscles or give me tasks and see how my pain and strength change? I would think there are an awful lot of people out there who are chronically fatigued or chronically in pain or suffering horribly but who do not, in fact, have the classic M.E. symptom of feel-okay-do-something-physical-and-practically-pay-with-your-life (as well as the vertigo at onset, debilitating exhaustion and pain, headaches, sore throats, temperature problems, night sweats and chills blah blah blah). I’m not over weight, I don’t drink or smoke, I have no home stressors, all my labs are normal ~ Aren’t the specialists gagging to study me? And all the other people I am in communication with online who are suffering at home? Shouldn’t the specialists and researchers be coming to us?? I’m just too exhausted to research all the links, all the info, read all the books… it’s such overload and gives me nightmares and makes my fears deepen.
  3. I was given the gift of a house cleaning (you know who you are, thank you). The money it cost was better spent than on any therapy session, massage or acupuncture I’ve had. This woman was so wonderful, so thorough, so kind. My house has never looked so good and it is pure joy to have that luxury. When she was leaving, she asked me, “Have you prayed to God?” I said, “No, I haven’t gotten to that point yet.” She said, “I will pray for you every day, Miss.” And it made me think about all those studies I read in college that showed patients healed better, faster, and more completely when people were praying for them even if the patients themselves didn’t know anyone was praying for them. These were statistically significant results. Call it what you like; I call it the collective unconscious, energy, intention. We are more powerful than we know and intention ~ brain waves, the power of the mind ~ can give results. So, my third and most-odd-for-me request: if you are so inclined, please say a prayer for me. And, if you are not inclined, maybe just throw a thought out into the universe that this affliction will leave me. I will do the same for you in my daily meditations. Even if I don’t get better, we might cause Mount Rainier to erupt or something, which would add some excitement to my life.