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Play That Funky Music, White Girl

Posted Jul 07 2008 7:13pm

I’ve been in a funk. And I’ve been feeling like crap. Neither of these are medical terms, I know, but they help explain why writing—or moving, or making the bed, or talking on the telephone—all feel like monumental efforts more in keeping with summiting a mid-sized Himalayan mountain than accomplishing the very minimal tasks of daily living.

It used to be (back in my pre-sarcoidosis days) that when I fell into a funk, I could use activity to jar myself out of my mood. A brisk walk or hike or a bike ride on a dirt road rutted enough to knock loose the funk was all it took to remind me that I had much to be happy about and little to fret over. Even when I was nine months pregnant with Andrew and the cumulus clouds that precede depression moved in, I would climb aboard a stationary, recumbent bike at the gym. Twenty minutes later, I felt re-charged, calmer, and paradoxically, more energized.

My other funk-busting strategy in the halcyon days before I moved into chronic town was to find people. I am, by nature, a loner. I like quiet, seek the corners (preferably behind plants) at large parties, and can endure a limited amount of social interaction in one day before feeling overwhelmed. Still, I love meeting with a good friend and gossiping over a cup of coffee. Lunch dates with people working out in the world (instead of typing away in a home office like me) took me out of my funkified head and left me revitalized.

Ever since I’ve had sarcoidosis, I’ve tried variations on these two strategies and have come up short—and still in a funk. I’m learning that what feels like depression is really the all-consuming fatigue that characterizes my disease. Nevertheless, when my mood turns sour, I still try to pedal (albeit for much shorter distances) on my stationary bike. However, instead of feeling rejuvenated at the end of the workout, I feel bludgeoned. Every day, I look at the bike in my room, and a little voice whispers inside my head, “You’d feel better if you rode that.” I argue with the voice. “Every bone and muscle in my body hurts; my head is pounding; I’m dizzy; I’m tired; I’m so short of breath.” Lately fatigue and more severe manifestations of the disease (along with what my husband Jay calls common sense) have won out and I haven’t forced myself through a workout. But I’m left with the funk, along with a feeling of failure for not having pedaled my way to a brighter frame of mind.

Meeting with friends is equally complicated. Talking on the phone too often leaves me with a screaming headache. (Interestingly, phone conversations—as opposed to face-to-face ones—leave the left side of my face totally numb.) I’m on so many different varieties of immunosuppressants that venturing outside the house to meet with friends feels like I’m contemplating cliff diving instead of meeting a buddy for a cup of joe.

This sick and tired dog needs to learn new tricks. I remind myself of our beloved dog Calypso, who, after having surgery, had to wear one of those plastic Elizabethan-looking collars to prevent her from licking her wound. Once home from the vet’s office, she had a terrible time navigating the house. She would misgauge the size of a doorway and walk into a wall. Bonk. Rather than back up and re-position herself, she would simply take two steps back and walk into the wall in exactly the same place. Bonk. This probably would have gone on for hours if Jay or I hadn’t intervened and guided her through the doorway.

I need someone to guide me through my own doorway of disease and depression. The old ways don’t work. They simply exhaust me more than they help me. If I could stop walking into the same wall, perhaps I could figure out new ways to cope with the funk. Bonk.

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