Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Recovery, Not Rest
I came across an article about how resilience is not about pushing through or just taking a break to rest but rather about recovery. Since then, this difference between recovery and rest has been on my mind as I try to engage in recovery for myself rather than just resting. But what is the difference and why is it important?
I discovered for myself how recovery plays a vital role in our well-being this weekend. I already knew that I require a lot of sleep and when my sleep is limited, I am at greater risk of a Short Bowel Syndrome flare. These flares can last anywhere from half a day to couple of days and medicine such as Lomotil to slow the bowel isn't really all that effective during a flare. In fact, nothing but time seems to help me when I'm having a flare. Sure, sitting up instead of lying down makes a difference but food, drink, and medicine don't play a positive role but rather can make the symptoms worse.
This weekend I spent both evenings awake and active until about 2-3 am. I slept in the best that I could the following day but most days I'm not able to sleep in later than 9 am at the latest. And if I take a nap during the day then I run the risk of not sleeping well that night. And so I overdid it both days and I felt it by Sunday afternoon. My body started to revolt. I wasn't flaring at this point but I was exhausted and in general just felt under the weather. I didn't do anything Sunday but my body paid no heed to my inactivity. The damage had been done and I needed a recovery period. I took a nap in the afternoon and felt some better by the evening. I fell asleep at a decent time that night and slept well throughout the night. However, it still wasn't enough. I awoke to feeling crummy and I felt so horrible I ended up only working half a day. I made it home and crashed until the late afternoon. This time when I awoke, I felt more like myself. I took a Lomotil and was able to enjoy an evening with my mother attending an art performance. This however, meant that I would have a bit of a later night than usual for a work night and I felt it the next day. Whenever I take Lomotil and it's effective, the next day is a bit of a swing day in the effects. Meaning that Lomotil may slow my bowel that day but the next day my intestine is trying to return to its daily normal and so will worsen my Short Bowel Syndrome as it's re-establishing itself. Between increased restroom needs, fatigue, and an overall crummy feeling I was struggling a bit for my usual normal. I was closer to normal than I was the day before but I could tell I still wasn't 100% myself. If I took another Lomotil to help my symptoms then I would just prolong the swing effect another day so I didn't want to take anymore medicine.
So how could I have helped myself besides the obvious of not staying up late, especially two nights in a row? I needed to not only catch up on my sleep but also to allow my brain a break from thinking and stressing. I should have put my phone down, ignored social media and focused on relaxing myself. As it explained in the resilience article, we may think we are recovering when we take a moment to rest but our brain is often remaining active with stressful or agitating thoughts. This activity isn't allowing a recovery period as we spend more energy wrestling with distressing moments.
So next time we are needing to recharge, let us remember to allow for recovery not just rest. Let's put down our technology, focus on our breathing and clear our thoughts. Engage in a light hearted moment with friends, journal, listen to our favorite music or podcasts, take a moment to enjoy nature, meditate or sleep. We all deserve a break from the mental and physical exhaustion of life and particularly that of chronic illness.
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. I experienced life threatening complications resulting in 4 more surgeries that year and developing medical PTSD. I had an ileostomy for 6 years before having it reversed into a straight pull-thru that also resulted in life threatening complications requiring an additional surgery the following year. In 2021, I required my 8th surgery to remove my gall bladder due to gall stones and FAP. This surgery exacerbated my at the time undiagnosed Abdominal Migraine which is now being treated.