Facing the Daily Can't's, Maybe's and Not Today's

11:48 PM

I am not a person who accepts "I can't." There are few things more frustrating to me than hearing someone talk about the reasons they're not able to do something (unless, of course, they're completely legitimate.) But having a chronic illness often involves waking up and assessing what you can and cannot do that day. And it's exasperating.

My mornings are usually pretty difficult, especially Tuesdays for some bizarre reason. Chronic fatigue means I have a lot of trouble getting going after I wake up, despite getting a full night's rest. That's usually compounded by some type of pain, which isn't always limited to my uterus. Sometimes it's my knee, my thigh, my neck, my shoulders or my back or maybe something new and fun today.

Waking up in pain is probably the worst way to start your day, aside from maybe waking up and realizing you are floating on an air mattress in a lake during winter or something like that. It has the capacity to drain all of the motivation and ambition out of your day, especially if you have responsibilities like, you know, work or cleaning your house or being an adult.

I'm blessed to be able to work from home, unless I'm traveling for work or needed for an in-person meeting. That allows me to conserve my energy and stay plugged into my heating pad. So I absolutely have it easier than those who not only have to be up and dressed on pain days, but also are obligated to be a coherent, friendly person. I mean, sometimes, I wake up in so much pain that I don't even want to smile at my dog. AND SHE'S ADORABLE LOOK.

So after conquering the hurdle of simply getting out of bed, endometriosis often involves taking a good look at what I need to do that day and assessing what I can and cannot do.

You may have heard me reference the "spoon theory," which explains how much energy a chronically ill person has and uses up in one day. Certain tasks may require more energy, or "spoons," than others. For example, socializing might cost me five spoons, while checking my email costs two. But if I only have 13 spoons that day (some days may have more or less), I need to be mindful of how I use up my spoons.

Hence my ever-growing, never-ending list of things I've needed to do for a while.

Lately, my to-do list priorities have been admittedly out of sorts. Of course, I get all of my work done, as that is obviously my number-one priority. But after work hours are over, I desperately want to go to the gym. Part of that is because I see it as an investment in my health, and exercise usually helps me manage my pain. But it's also because after feeling like a piece of crap all day, I really want to get out and prove to myself that I have some control over this bundle of fire-nerves and fatigue that I call "my body."

And here comes the paradox. If I make it to the gym, (usually at 8 p.m., which is ideal gym time in my opinion) that obviously costs me a good number of spoons. So when I come home, I end up neglecting other tasks like laundry, cleaning the kitchen or updating this blog of mine. Yes, I could have done these things before I left for the gym, but I was using that time to recharge and make sure I had enough spoons to actually exercise. While working out does improve my pain and energy in the long-run, it often drains my spoons in the short-run and leaves me without energy to finish my chores.

There's probably also an element of going to the gym being more fun than cleaning that gets me there faster than it takes me to get to the mop bucket...

I've always been an "I can do it" person. It's been both my gift and my downfall since I've been known to overexert or over-commit myself. So having to be responsible with my "can"s for today and forcing myself to move some of them to "not today"s is infuriating. I want to do it all! I want to cook, clean, go the gym, write a novel, color in my Star Wars coloring book and call my friends all in one day! 

But simply put, I don't have the physical or mental energy for it all. My body gives me only so much, and in turn, I can only give so much. It's an inner struggle that I don't like to think about too much or I get crabby, and it's a balance I'm constantly working on, along with every other balance in endometriosis.

I'm thankful that my endometriosis pain isn't as severe as other women's, allowing me to do more with my days than other patients. I'm also grateful that I have a husband who can manage some of those chores and take a bit of the burden off of me.

But it is difficult to say to myself "I can't today" or "Maybe later." It isn't fun to get less done than I want to or than other 25-year-olds can do in one day. I hate not being a bundle of energy anymore and not having the same endurance that twenty-somethings are supposed to have. I hate saying "no" to social gatherings or volunteer activities that I would love to be a part of because I have to prioritize other things that day. I hate that endometriosis transformed me from a very obvious extrovert to an "I can play an extrovert if I need to today..."

I don't like being in this place, but I know it'll get better with balance.

It's all about balance, apparently...

So this is a bit of a rambling blog post this time around, but after a very serious pain day, I needed the catharsis. I've spent almost all day on a couch with a heating pad, watching Love It or List It. And my dog has recently discovered that she MUST EAT ALL OF THE SNOW OUTSIDE, so she begs to be taken outside once an hour. And there's no way of knowing if she really needs to go out...

But tomorrow will be better. And if it's not, then I'll assess what I can do and take it from there. And I'll be kind to myself and say that it's okay if the vacuuming doesn't get done for one more day because I don't live in HGTV-land where perfectly white kitchens exist and dogs never pee on the floor.

I should go to bed.

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