Monday, October 15, 2012

Lessons From the Well Spouse - Part 2, Post-Crisis Exhaustion

Or, alternatively, if things are getting better why do I feel so horrible?

As I explained in the previous Well Spouse post, there are certain challenges in being married to someone with an acute or chronic illness of any type.

I realize it's odd to jump from pre-crisis to post-crisis but I'm currently dealing with this issue that no one seems to talk about. No one warns you about how bad you'll feel after things start to get better.

Everyone has their own definition of "getting better" as well as their own ideas about what constitutes the end of the crisis.

For me, my criteria ended up being two-fold: 1. that Chris's symptoms start improving and he starts acting more like himself and 2. everything in the future treatment plan be something we've already gone through and therefore know how to handle. Since the future treatment plan is "nuke it from orbit again if necessary" I KNOW I can handle what comes next because we've already gone through it once. As for Chris acting more like himself, his ambition is starting to fully reappear and some of his most bothersome symptoms are on the wane.

You would think that being out of the crisis would lead to elation. Well, yes of course I'm thrilled.

I'm also completely exhausted. I'm not talking "need more rest" exhausted either. Chronic exhaustion or what is now called mental or emotional fatigue.

I hate those terms. Mental and emotional fatigue doesn't really describe what I'm going through. Chronic exhaustion of the "have to drag myself out of bed" variety is far more accurate. Some would mistake it for a major depressive episode. It's not. I still enjoy things, I have ambition and motivation. I'm very irritated at my body's unwillingness to follow through on my ambition and motivation and my brain's complete fatigue.

So why chronic exhaustion, and why now?

I think it's two-fold. One part is simply the effects of being in crisis mode for too long. If you've spent a long time (in my case years) grappling with a problem and pushing yourself to the emotional and mental limit, you're going to be exhausted. At some point the pressure lifts and your mind and body say, "yay, now we can rest and the world won't end!" No, you don't get a say in the matter.

The second part is re-adjusting to life with less stress. Once the huge cloud of medical crisis lifts there's considerably less stress to deal with. If the crisis went on for a long time you naturally adjusted to that stress level. With the crisis gone there's not near as much stimulus or adrenaline or pressure. Life becomes somewhat boring. It's really not boring at all, you just need to adjust to your new circumstances.

What this leaves you with is systemic exhaustion combined with no compelling reason to not sleep for 12 hours a day.

So while you'd love to be out celebrating the good news, the likelihood is all you want to do is sleep and rest. That's fair. You need time to recover from everything you've done during the crisis.

I think I'm finally somewhat rested, renewed, and adjusted. It took a fairly long time (4 weeks) but I'm almost back up to a reasonable energy level for a pregnant woman. I'm not very happy with certain things I've let slide but now I can tackle what needs to be done.

I'm very, very glad to be on the upswing at last.