Not for the first time this week I was asked this question. My psychologist who is treating my M.E. asked me when I said I was worried about going back to work. I answered “that I’d have a relapse… but I don’t actually think that would happen and even if I did I’ve got the tools to deal with one better now”. So I talked myself out of it and am currently waiting to hear back about a job I’ve applied for.
‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ has become a sort of mantra of mine, a concept I’m trying to live by in order to snap out of the controlling, anxiety-based behaviours I had developed since becoming ill ten years ago. Its perfectly reasonable that I would develop them, M.E. is a seemingly random illness that strikes when you least expect it because symptoms can take a few days to manifest. This delayed fatigue is so annoying when you’re trying to work out how much activity you can cope with! Fortunately I have a brilliant mum who has always encouraged me to have a go, and says that if I don’t try I’ll never know. And I’ve done a lot of trying and yes its resulted in a lot of giving up, but I don’t have any regrets about them. She taught me to weigh up the possible gains and losses, e.g. was going to a gig played by your favourite band worth feeling like crap the next day? Yes it was!
It was in this spirit that I booked myself on a study day at the National Gallery this weekend. Now to go to a city by yourself may seem like a trivial thing for most people but for a person with M.E. it creates a minefield of ‘what ifs’. What if there’s nothing I can eat on my restricted diet? What if I don’t get any sleep in the hostel and feel awful? What if I feel so ill I can’t look after myself and I’m alone? What if I crash out afterwards? But guess what? It was fine. I took loads of snacks with me so when finding food was difficult I nibbled on some gluten-free oatcakes. I managed to sleep ok in the hostel with the help of relaxation tracks, earplugs and my scarf over my face. I didn’t feel awful most of the time and when I did I took some medication and chilled out. For the first time I didn’t pressurise myself into ‘getting it right’, I was kinder. I listened to my inner child when it said “central London is far too busy I’m gonna freak out if you don’t get me outa here in a minute” so I got myself to a quieter area because that’s what I needed and that’s ok.
Amazingly, today I feel ok. I’m a little tired, my brain is working slower than my limbs so I am dropping everything, but when I told my friend this he said “maybe you’re also just clumsy” he’s probably right! Its so easy to forget that actually a person without M.E. also feels tired when they’ve spent two days in a busy city and is also clumsy! All I know is I went to London on my own, I survived and I’m not dying in bed full of regrets. I may not be running a marathon today, but I’ve been living one and I call this a massive success. I now believe that its important to celebrate every achievement no matter how small.
We spend so much time focussing on the ‘what if this went wrong’ possibilities, why not focus on the ‘what if this went right’ ones?
Marathon runners have coaches to keep them motivated, what could your inner coach say to you about keeping up the good work?
What small achievement could you celebrate this week?