Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Energy is a funny thing. It changes rapidly, without notice. And yet, even at our lowest we somehow manage to summon enough strength and energy to at least do the bare minimum of what's required of us. And then we collapse.
I've fought with energy on various levels since my colectomy that left me requiring iron and B12 for the remainder of my life. Even with iron medication 3-5 times a day, I have yet to reach a normal hemoglobin level again since that first surgery. With the use of daily microlozenges, I've achieved and maintained above average B12 levels.
And yet, my energy is just as much of a roller coaster struggle as it has been all those years ago. Oddly enough, even in my sickest years 8-12 years ago when all I could manage was to complete my studies and my work hours, there was an abundance of times that I remember as having more energy than I have now. I don't feel old, I'm only 29 and yet when I look back on all the various activities that took up every moment of my days for years, I become exhausted just thinking about it! I can't even force myself to maintain as busy of a schedule as I did 6 years ago!
At my very worst, I went to school and work only and I slept every chance I had. At my best, I worked part time, attended school full time, attended sorority events, college activities, and family gatherings with energy to spare. I went out three nights a week with friends, staying out until 3-4 in the morning and rising again by 7 am to start the day all over again. I don't remember resting any except for during the very worst times. I realize my memories become fuzzy after a while, not just due to age but more so as an effect that is associated with my PTSD and coping mechanisms. My energy must have been at higher levels during those years. Otherwise, how did I participate in the various activities demanded of me?
Presently, I am astounded by myself when I am able to participate in activities of chores, hobbies, or social outings after work anymore. Most nights I come home after work and veg on the couch, recuperating from the events of the day. My sleep cycles further affect my energy levels. Increased energy when I'm able to sleep and lower levels during sleep deprivation periods. I question how I managed such full schedules just a few years ago, I'm amazed at what I was able to accomplish on a daily basis. Even a year ago I engaged in more activity by balancing a full time and part time contract job. Now the thought of even PRN work makes me groan with exhaustion. It takes a while to face the truth sometimes. Things we don't want to admit, things we want to blame on our illness but some things we just can't lay at the feet of FAP.
Slowly I've come to realize that yes, I did have more energy when I was younger and whilst FAP and my health drain my energy daily, I also have a depleted source of energy due to aging. Oddly, this has been a test of acceptance for me. I didn't want to admit that I'm already experiencing normal aging process. I still look incredibly young for my age and within my mind, I still see myself as 26. I actually forget I'm 29, getting ready to stare at 30 in just half a year. I'm accustomed to bothersome symptoms occurring as a result of the FAP, not a normal process that occurs to healthy individuals too.
Living with a chronic illness complicates any situation and blurs the lines between normal and abnormal. So often it's difficult to distinguish the cause of a symptom as related to our illness or related to normal processes. With these blurred lines, it becomes further difficult to notice "normal" symptoms versus the abnormal symptoms that fill our world that we have become accustomed to as a normal reality. Our minds flood with multiple questions in an attempt to identify the source of symptom changes. Is our health declining, is this a flare up, is this to be expected, is this a sign of something worse, could this be an additional condition? It takes us years to adapt to FAP and the associated issues, years of learning what our new norms are, how and what affects us, what is required to recuperate. In spite of our expertise in how our bodies work, a curve ball always presents itself. We become masters of the curveballs, juggling them with our typical issues; adapting, coping, growing...surviving.
A curveball isn't always big, they come in small sizes as well. Regardless of size, they throw us for a loop when we're least prepared for the change. Grab hold of the curveballs and throw them back at life. Prepare yourself the best you can for the next one that is heading your way.
This is my life with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Short Bowel Syndrome. I was diagnosed with FAP as a child, underwent total colectomy at age 9. After complications and 6 more surgeries. I had an ileostomy for 6 years and am currently living with a straight pull-thru.