They say that pride comes before a fall but I think there are times where that is quite simply nonsense. My feeling is that at times a sense of pride in your achievements helps to motivate you and push you to keep going.
We normally feel proud when: at work – you negotiated successfully a huge contract; fitness – you completed a 10 km run despite three months ago having never run at all; home – you helped to design your new kitchen and now it is in place and looks great.
For those who suffer from a chronic illness, the things that we can feel proud of significantly narrow. Physically achievements that ‘normal’ people regard as successes are impossible; anything that requires a financial commitment tend to be impossible; work achievements in the ‘normal’ sense again are impossible – just surviving work or working at all are the greatest achievement most can hope for.
Despite this narrowing of a sense of achievement, there are lots for M.E. patients to feel proud of. Rather than macro achievements however ours are very much micro achievements. We achieve things that ‘normal’ people wouldn’t even notice on a daily basis but for us represent mountains to climb.
Today, I feel a great sense of pride in my achievements. The progress I have seen over the last 7 weeks and in particular in the last 3 is quite frankly remarkable. The progress came in terms of my physical management but also my psychological management of this disease. The combination has enabled me for the first time in a long time to feel genuinely stronger and more ‘normal’.
So what have I achieved?
1. I am now able to stretch all the muscles in my body without payback later.
2. I have been able to increase the duration of each stretch from 5 seconds to 7 seconds.
3. I have created a successful system of alternating ‘Active’ and ‘Rest’ days, this has enabled me to avoid boom and bust.
4. I have been able to work out the baseline number of steps per day I should take – again avoiding the confusion between perception and reality of how active I am.
5. I have increased my Rest day steps from 1700 to 2530.
6. I have increased my Active day steps from 2700 to 3630.
7. I have enabled myself to go from practically housebound when alone, to being able to go out 3 – 4 days a week alone.
8. I have increased the distance I can walk on my Active days from practically nothing to 0.9 of a mile with a 10 – 20 minute break in the middle.
9. I have worked out that I can increase 2 activities a week by 10% without payback.
10. I have increased my Activity Points from an inconsistent 11 to a consistent 13.
11. I have been able to control my urge (most of the time) to do more than should on a good day therefore making it less likely that I will experience boom and bust.
12. I am able to read a book again (in short bursts) having not been able to for about 6 months.
13. Over the last 21 days, 20 have seen only mild symptoms where previously they were either moderate or severe.
14. I sleep every night for 8 – 10 hours: up from 3 – 4 hours six months ago.
15. I didn’t give up when all signs suggested I should.
If you have never been chronically ill, then my improvement (understandably to you) will be barely worth mentioning. If you have been chronically ill, you will realise the enormity of these achievements.
I feel incredibly proud of myself for not giving up, for being determined to very slowly improve my health and my activity level.
I am particularly proud of the fact that I didn’t give up fighting for suitable medical support and any necessary medication until I got it. Most of my achievements (except for those from medication) have been a result of my own self-designed treatment system but without those in the medical profession confirming that I was doing it right and by re-iterating just how slowly progress would be made, I may have given up – thinking my system wasn’t working. Therefore while my fight for medical support may not have led to anything revolutionary, it gave me the necessary confidence to keep going.
I remember as a child painting pictures (despite not being in anyway artistic), I remember how the more I concentrated on the tiny details, the more enjoyment I got from the activity and the finished product. Perhaps being chronically ill has reminded me to enjoy the little things about life that make life good and not worry so much about the big picture.
Modern life encourages us to want to achieve big – we need to run the marathon; earn big money; buy a big house; and have perfect children who are skilled in music, sport and are academically brilliant. Perhaps we shouldn’t be worrying about those things so much and concern ourselves instead with ensuring that every day we get as many of the little things that make life good right. So say hello to your neighbours, chat to your partner over dinner, be kind to strangers, take time to just be yourself by yourself, do your best at work without thinking that means you must work long hours, be happy with what you’ve got, go for a walk and notice the little insects and the flowers of spring. Surely these things will ultimately make you happier, stronger and prouder than being super fit and rich.
See also my other non-M.E. related blog: Me Opinionated! Really?