I realise that I kinda fell off the face of the earth there for a while. A hell of a lot has happened to me since I last posted here. Most relevant to this blog is that I have been diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified). This basically puts me somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. So a lot of the stuff that I previously discussed here as being my experience as someone suffering from depression is actually my experience as someone suffering from depression and coping with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). I’m pretty confident that my advise is useful to people regardless, though, so really it’s just a “so you know”!
Anyway, the other new thing that’s happened lately is that I’ve signed up to gym classes. It’s too early to say yet whether I’ll feel fitter or get more energy or whatnot, but there have been a few things I’ve noticed during gym that I’ve been mulling over. One of them is how much easier it is to keep going when the instructor is standing in front of you saying “Ten seconds left. Five, four, three, two, one… stop!” It’s like one moment you can’t possibly go another step, and then suddenly you can keep going for ten whole seconds just to say you stayed the distance. It’s a powerful force.
“What has this to do with invisible illnesses?” I hear you say.
Well, the answer is that we don’t have this.
A chronic illness doesn’t have that last second push to get you through, because there is no through. If you’re sick with the flu or a broken leg you can generally get an idea of how long recovery will take, but for a chronic illness? Nothing.
So what can you do about it? All the trying in the world won’t give you a timetable for your mood swings or an end-date to your fibromyalgia pain. So you have to be your own instructor. Set your own times. Create your own home stretch to run down.
– Try doing chores and studying and other activities in 15min bursts, for example. At the end of a session move on to another activity, or take a 15min break, or stop for the day, or whatever. It’s weird how ten minutes into an hour long session your attention starts wandering, but at ten minutes out of fifteen things are so much more focused.
– Set days off, and stick to them. Most people seem to have a mental countdown to the weekend. It helps them get through tough days at work. Often for people with invisible illnesses a working week is too much, so set your own days off and count down to those. Don’t give in to the temptation to fill every day if you don’t have the energy or ability. You’re health will only suffer from it. Instead set yourself schedules that allow you to fill whatever time you’ve allotted with the best you. Quality over quantity dear!
– When you stop working, STOP WORKING. It doesn’t matter if it’s a job, or chores, or even just keeping up with the news. When you stop, stop. You can’t get the push you need for that last little bit if you know you won’t let yourself rest afterwards.
– Schedule treats for yourself. Half an hour more and I can stop for a nice cup of tea. One day more to that lovely massage. One more big push on my project and then I get to snuggle up and watch my favourite tv show. Just a little bit more, and then…
– And finally, accept that you can’t keep going all the time. Sometimes you just need to collapse (figuratively) and sleep for a week. So set yourself a little challenge. Just ten seconds more. And then make space for yourself to recover. You deserve it!