Giving up has a bad rap. We are taught - by our parents, by our schools, by society - to never give up, to persevere, to overcome whatever obstacles stand in your way. I have always been a fierce push-through-it kind of person which made adjusting to my new life with ME/CFS so much harder. This illness runs contrary to everything we have ever heard in our past lives: if you keep pushing through, persevering, never giving up...then you just keep getting sicker and sicker.
My first years with ME/CFS were defined by this crazy rollercoaster ride known in CFS circles as the push-crash cycle, especially before I had my diagnosis or learned about post-exertional crashes. I'd feel horribly sick - too sick to do anything at all - so I'd lie on the couch and in bed, unable to do anything. Then, I'd miraculously feel better and jump up and resume my normal activities again - even worse, I'd do more than normal in an effort to make up for those lost sick days. Then, of course, within a few days I'd be back on the couch again. Back in those days, the ups and downs made no sense to me. Now I know better, but it is still hard to go against all those societal norms and give up.
I had plans today, urgent plans. I "had" to go to the Post Office to mail my step mom's birthday gift so it will arrive in time for her birthday on Friday. I "had" to go to the Verizon store to change an erroneous bill and fix my sadly broken cell phone. I "had" to stop at the grocery store and grab a few items for the rest of the week.
But I woke up feeling awful - exhausted after 9 solid hours of sleep, still tired but too wired to sleep anymore. I thought I'd feel better after washing up and doing some gentle yoga. I procrastinated on getting my package ready and instead read my e-mails while watching the Today show. I kept telling myself, "I don't feel that bad." I tried to trim down my to-do list, thinking that I have to get to the Post Office but I could put off the other errands.
Finally, after putting in a load of laundry and noting the sore throat creeping in and the aching-all-over feeling, I gave up. After 11 years, I should be familiar with this sort of day - what I call a Plan B day - but it still took me several hours to finally admit that I needed to give up and give in. The world won't end if I don't get those things done. I decided I will just call and let my step mom know that her gift may be a day late.
You know it is a crash day when you finally decide to give up your to-do list and stay home and almost weep with relief. Maybe it was the very busy weeks and weekends filled with houseguests we've had lately. Maybe it's my son's cold triggering an immune system flare-up. Whatever it is, I've been struggling all week - told my husband yesterday I've just been feeling wiped out and sluggish in spite of getting plenty of rest - and it just feels so good to give in.
I've made another cup of herbal tea, piled up the pillows on the couch, and gotten myself horizontal. I have my book by my side and the Fall book catalog I never seem to find time to go through.
I am giving up and giving in. It is the right thing to do. It is what my body needs. Why is it so hard to do?