This was going to be a post about how much I love my Doc Martens but in light of this week's events that will have to wait. So you can look forward to that one.
The approach I've always taken with my health is to have inward concern, but to try and project an air of flippancy and good humor, with occasional spurts of hypochondria. It is, I feel, the best way to avoid tears/anger. It means you can say things like "lol, I've had to take 24 painkillers a day for the last few days #hardcore" without crying over the fact that it's still taking you over two hours to get to sleep because of the amount of pain you're still in, or without really worrying about the state your liver/kidneys will be in at the end of this process.
I have, as my ex-colleagues and mother & boyfriend can attest, not quite managed to maintain this veneer in the past few months as much as I like to think I have. But nothing really drove home how utterly poor my health really is until after my first real attempt at exercise on Monday.
The Rheumatologist I saw back in London told me I needed low-impact but muscle-strengthening exercise like swimming, yoga or pilates in order to improve. Being a very excellent, albeit out of practice, swimmer already I naturally decided to try that first. I've put it off for a couple of months because I needed 'rest' but my ever patient mother eventually put her foot down and so we went swimming for the first time on Monday afternoon. "How many laps do you want to do?" asked my mother. "Oh, 20 to start with, I think" I replied airily, squeezing myself into the costume I haven't put on for nearly three years.
2 lengths later, I had to set a more realistic goal. "Maybe 10" I gasped, as I stood in the shallow end attempting to recover my dignity. I climbed out of the pool 15 minutes and 8 more lengths later, feeling slightly abashed at my lack of stamina but pleased I'd made the effort. Back in the changing room however, it really hit me. I was so tired. My muscles felt weak, jelly-like. I was shaking. I struggled to get my costume off and get dressed. My mum had to brush and dry my hair for me because I didn't have the strength or energy left. I also didn't have the strength or energy left to finish my reward of chippy chips for tea, either. "They'll go cold" my mum urged. 4 urgings later I realised she meant they'll go cold for when I give up and let her have the rest.
I took 6 painkillers. 4 hours later, I took 6 more. And 4 hours after that, at 3am, when I still couldn't sleep from the pain, I took 6 more. I woke up the next day after only 4 hours of sleep and I felt...okay, actually. Bit stiff. Mostly fine. 2 hours, 2 walks and 1 appointment later, it was Hell on Earth. My whole left side was sore. My right side was smug and gloating. I couldn't lift my left arm. I was so freaking stiff. My mum made me help unpack the shopping and then go for a half hour walk with her and our dog. "You're just going to stiffen up again" was her reply to my plea for a "little rest" first. It did help. But then I sat on the sofa and I spent all evening/night in pain/stiffness. My boyfriend had to help me undress for bed and not in a fun, sexy way. In a "I actually can't lift my leg high enough/reach forward enough to take my own tights off" way. All from 10 lengths. 10 measly lengths. 20 minutes of swimming, max.
Today, nearly 48 hours later, I'm still in a lot of pain. I convinced myself I partially dislocated my left shoulder (I have no idea, I've never knowingly partially dislocated something before, I don't know what it looks/feels like) and my muscle twitches are back with a vengeance. It's been *quite* difficult to type this all up. And what am I going to do about it? Well since I first drafted this post I went to the GP & got new medication which should help with the twitches, but also I'm going to go swimming on Friday. Because despite all the pain and the awfulness, I've got to just keep swimming.
Sorry, couldn't help it. I'm going to go and have a little cry now.