Friday, March 28, 2008

An Important Lesson

I have discovered an equation that defines how I live my life these days. It is:

Tired = Stupid

I used to be one of those people who could walk and chew gum at the same time. I wasn't an Einstein, didn't have a photographic memory, but could remember most daily details. Usually I could identify my kids in a large group of people, remember where I parked the car, get myself to work and back home again, and had some general idea how much money was in the checking account. 

On days when I have a fair amount of energy, these things are still true, to a certain extent. But when my energy levels are low, my mind morphs into mush. Suddenly simple tasks require an enormous amount of concentration. My kids get referred to as "'s your name again?" I wander around the house looking for my car keys, which are inevitably right in my pocket. Dinner may be plus or minus key ingredients, if it gets made at all. 

I have learned that when the Tired=Stupid equation applies, certain strategies are necessary. 

1. Stop and Drop

Unless the task is of vital importance, such as driving to the gas station for a Snickers bar, I need to stop what I am doing and plop myself on the couch. Sitting in a chair doesn't do it. I need to get myself horizontal. 

2. Plan Plan Plan

If at all possible, I try to make my day as predictable as possible. I try to manage my activities so that I can make sure to have adequate rest periods before and after. Of course, life is just not usually structured to this extent, so when my schedule changes unexpectedly, I need to make a serious attempt to also schedule more down time. This is a really hard thing to do but I have learned that if I don't - my chances are nil for accomplishing anything. 

3. Leave Useful Tools Lying Around

I use a set of cordless phones in the house. Our set has four phones which are interchangeable in their chargers, so I scatter them around various rooms.This eliminates the need to scramble to answer the phone which always rings when the body hits the couch. I leave other items scattered around too. Ever see the movie "Signs"? Remember when the little girl leaves glasses of water all over the house? Sjogren's people do that too - usually it isn't to melt aliens, though, just to unstick their tongues from the roof of their mouths. 

4. Laugh

When tired=stupidness starts rolling through the brain, disappointment and crankiness are not far behind. Telling myself to cheer up is a sure-fire way to progress from crankiness to a total weepy meltdown. However, if I am able to make any attempt to find the humor in whatever situation I'm in, I am always rewarded by a lift in spirits. Laughing must trigger a whole different set of neurotransmitters, I think. Mental scolding just doesn't cut it. 

5. Live and Learn

Adapting to a chronic disease is a never-ending process. I have learned to take advantage of other's experiences and suggestions. I enjoy reading, and devour books which share research and strategies for dealing with invisible disabilities. Check out "A Delicate Balance - Living Successfully with Chronic Illness" by Susan Milstrey Wells. This book is one of many that help people with chronic illnesses understand themselves and motivate them to find ways to improve their lives. Of course, the web provides an endless source of information and networking opportunities as well. When I am tempted to follow advice that includes taking supplements or changing medications, I ALWAYS check with my physician first. 

Bottom line - Chronic disease changes everything. To live reasonably well, be honest in interpreting the signals that your body is sending. Then use those signals to modify your routine. Learn from yourself - and others. Tired=Stupid doesn't always have to be true!


Scottie said...

I really like the way you put that.

I can SO identify with it.

Anonymous said...

You've made me smile with your descriptions. Nothing about this disease is funny, but without a sense of humor it will win.