I’m in one of those vicious cycles of decline, no clear idea of what triggered it and no clear way out of it. It’s the complexity of decline that makes doctors run for the door and leaves me one my own struggling forward. As is my habit I often like to try and figure out what’s happening to me by writing and this rambling post is the result. I say I don’t know what started this cycle of decline, but I can see its roots in the gradual slackening off of good habits over time, then a series of trigger events at work that tipped me right over the edge of a cliff and now I’m sliding down. The scramble back up is likely to be long and painful. Let’s take a look at where I am now:
- I’ve had three acute flares this year which means I’m now back on auto-immune suppressants, but those acute flares are nothing compared to the daily grind of chronic symptoms
- My neck muscles are painful and tight meaning that I’m having migraines every day, I’d like to take pain killers, but it’s pain killer over use that’s contributing to the migraines. So I resist popping pills during the day but often have to give in at night because I need my sleep
- Pain levels are such that sleep is very difficult without sleep aids, so after weaning myself off them last year, I’m taking them again and that means I can’t stop without weeks of very badly disrupted sleep. I’m stuck on them for now
- The sleep aids make me extremely drowsy in the mornings, making it essentially impossible to keep on top of my work research, my reading backlog grows every day even with constant pruning
- Body pain levels have gone through the roof, particularly my feet, lower legs, arms and shoulders. This means I’m walking less (walking feels like I have stones in my shoes) and it’s a rare day that I can motivate myself to go through the pain of swimming
- The resulting lack of exercise makes everything (pain, sleep, mood) worse
- Brain fog is particularly debilitating, everything takes twice as long as it usually does
- My energy levels are greatly reduced, I can do 1/2 to 1/3 the number of press-ups that I can normally do with double the pain levels doing them, it’s hard to motivate myself to even try
- Fatigue levels are greatly increased, leaving me wiped out by lunchtime most days
- Depression is creeping in, it used to be with me for a day a month, now it’s probably every 3 or 4 days
- Motivation levels have gone through the floor, which means keeping to my special diet and other healthy habits much harder
- I’m getting ever further behind at work, feeling disengaged and unable to maintain and grow the network of contacts that I need to succeed.
- My diet is suffering, I’ve not had a green smoothie for two weeks, I’ve not met my target for veg and fruit on a single day this month.
- I finished by allocation of pain killers for the month after the first 2 weeks, so I’ve crashed through that target
The way back from here is going to involve lots of ‘one step forward, two steps back’, I’m going to need to try and live the best days that I can, trying to take small steps in the right direction:
- Somehow I’m going to have to survive for days on end without pain killers, which will mean many very grim days
- I’m going to have to reduce my sleep aid use by 50% which means lots of nights struggling to sleep
- I’m going to have to walk through the pain in my feet every day, which means 10,000 steps onto painful feet
- I need to clean up my diet, which means finding the motivation to prepare 3 meals from scratch each day using the best fresh ingredients (daily shopping)
- No matter how much effort I put in I’m going to have lots of setbacks, I’m going to need the mental resilience to push on
- I’m going to have to do all this whilst feeling weak, exhausted and depressed, like I have the flu
- This is going to be a long hard struggle
- I try to remember the good days that I’ve enjoyed in the past to motivate me, but already it’s hard to recall
- I feel a bit like crying
As I sit here writing this I’m bathed in pain, my neck in particular is really bad. My feet are now ok, because I walked 12,000 steps in pain at 2 miles an hour for most of the morning, but my arms paid the price. I’ve a deepening pain behind my left eye which is already bad enough for pain killers, but I can’t take them. All I want to do is curl up and sleep.
I took today’s photo half way through my walk, looking towards the North Dunes of St Annes. I’d already spent a couple of hours in Caffe Nero trying to catch up on work and making a little progress. I did the second half of the walk with Chris, a friend from work, which made for a much more enjoyable time than listening to podcasts for work.