Inside even the strongest of us, internal struggles exist which are entirely invisible to the outer world. One such struggle is the chronic warrior's battle with post-exertional fatigue...
Some women practised calorie restriction; was she to spend her youth practising the art of minimising exertion?
From the moment she woke up, she knew she had overextended herself. She hadn’t listened to those subtle physical cues: the weakness that spread from her toes, climbing insidiously up to her thighs, gripping her like poison ivy. She had ignored that fog which pervaded her brain, trapping any lingering content and leaving her entirely devoid of coherent Thought. Of basic insight. She felt empty, but she still smiled and nodded and pushed back against the ivy, wilfully battling the fatigue with fierce stubbornness. Sheer obstinacy was no match for those all-pervasive creatures which buried themselves into every nook and cranny of her architecture. A stealthy, imperceptible malaise.
In those few moments when she first woke, she knew how the remainder of her day would be. Those moments were critical, all-telling, often tragic. She knew in those moments whether she would be able to walk today or whether she would remain prostrate, cursing the poison ivy which invaded her without ever asking for permission. Battling against it was futile; it won every time, effortlessly and with overpowering strength. Human fortitude was an ant in the presence of this earth-shattering storm; it was a pointless battle.
But she was born fighting. She was born from the first moment defending herself from invisible evil spirits. Even when she was entirely alone, she was fighting. She was stubborn and immovable. When the ivy started to grow, she fought against it with passion, with righteous indignation. And yet, even amidst the fury and tumult of this battle, she felt utterly defenceless.
Please listen, that Sensible Voice said to her quietly, deep down beneath the grappling struggle. It echoed through her:
Do not pick up that glass of wine.
Don’t you dare take the stairs.
Stop eating that highly processed refined food. It isn’t anti-inflammatory.
Sit down don’t stand.
Please, it said, please stop fighting and accept. This Voice knew better. This Voice, if heeded, would permit her to get out of bed the next day without being wracked with pain. It was the principle of carefully-measured physical restraint; if she learned the art, they told her that her fuel tank would never run dry. It might never be full again, but at least she could live a half-full life, if only she would stop fighting against the ivy. If only she would accept energy-saving as her new mode de vivre. Some women practised calorie restriction; was she to spend her youth practising the art of minimising exertion?
Sometimes it felt like a well-designed trap. There were still those days where she could dance, where the blanket of fog lifted, and she could almost catch a taste of her former self. Those days were lived with pure joy and anticipation of something brighter. On those days, she was deceived into thinking that perhaps she had won the battle and she dared to conceive of a life which was not merely half-full but brimming. Those rare days were the days for which she truly lived; this life was without a ceiling, transcending just plain breathing existence.
These clear sky days were outnumbered by the days where her disease screamed louder than any other sound. Her disease was the tinnitus to her life, and perhaps she must learn that no tonic she self-administered would ever truly eradicate it. The Sensible Voice whispered:
There is no cure.
Make friends with post-exertional fatigue.
She simply had to accept its coexistence and, instead of trying to drown it out with other noises, she might strive to adapt. The poison ivy which clawed at her body might never be fully uprooted, but she would continue to cut it back, preventing it from obscuring her architecture completely. She might one day learn to practise the art of counting her efforts and cutting back on her fatigue, just like some women count calories.