Reality Check: Medical Leave, Day 20

Keeping this blog has been good for me. I’ve worked on it almost every day since I’ve been out on medical leave, and it’s given me a chance to write down some thoughts that have been on my mind for a long time.

But, like any writing project, this blog has also allowed me to hide behind a façade. As I read back over what I’ve written these last three weeks, the entries start to seem more and more controlled and contrived as they progress. There’s less soul, less of a sense of rawness and feeling.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. I like my cerebral cortex (concussed though it may be) as much as anyone, and I know that a little raw emotion can go a long way. But I don’t want to allow this blog to develop a glibness that filters out the reality of what is happening as I struggle to learn more about what is wrong with me and how I can recover from it.

Here’s what happened this weekend: on Saturday, I left home around 10:45 to go do laundry at a friend’s house. I don’t have my own machines, and the laundry room that my landlord started installing in our building last year is perpetually a work in progress. I hadn’t washed any clothes, sheets, or towels since February 1, so the pile of items that needed washing filled up the entire back seat of my car. And what I did on Saturday was just that: laundry. I put a load in the wash, then sat back down on the couch. I talked with my friend and with her little girl. I drank cider. Sometimes my friend had to leave to take care of her daughter or get things done around the house, and I stayed on the couch. For a good long while I was lying down, practically asleep. When a washer load finished, I moved it to the dryer. When a dryer load finished, I folded it and put it in the basket. Sometimes my friend even did this part of the process for me.

And this level of activity practically killed me. By two p.m. I had a raging headache. The whole right side of my face throbbed and was tender to the touch. I could practically feel the individual neurons firing on overload. My neck felt so weak that it couldn’t hold my head up. I had a little episode of post-acupuncture vertigo, which went away quickly but left me feeling nauseated. When I left to drive home – without finishing all my laundry, by the way – the lights and objects in my peripheral vision were jumping around so frantically that I felt lucky not to get in an accident.

And what did I do on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday? I recovered from Saturday.

I can’t tell you exactly why I am on medical leave. Sure, I can tell you that I have fibromyalgia and MTBI, and sure, I can enumerate my symptoms. But I can’t tell you exactly what makes my health right now different from my health a year ago, when I felt rotten but could generally manage a normal professional life – and could manage to do the laundry once a week. But I can tell you this: it’s real. When I left work, one of my greatest worries was that I would be out for a week and then feel fine. If that had happened, I would have felt so sheepish and embarrassed. But this seems to be real. Three weeks down and no end in sight.

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2 Responses to Reality Check: Medical Leave, Day 20

  1. Jill says:

    I can’t imagine what this must feel like. I get tired, sure, but usually after a few days off I’ve got my energy back and am ready to go back to work. I may not want to, but physically I can do it. I almost have the impression that you’re more worn out now than you were when you started your leave. But that may just be that this is the first post where you’ve really described how painful and exhausted you are since the beginning. I wish I could help you do your laundry while you lounged on my couch.

    • lfpbe says:

      Thanks, Jill. I live for days when I don’t have to leave the house at all. I would say that I feel about the same as I did when I started my leave, except that in those first few days I was stunned, as if I didn’t believe that the leave was real. Tomorrow I’m going to see my G.P. for whatever that’s worth. She usually isn’t helpful at all. But I want her to refer me for food allergy tests just so I can cross another possible pain trigger off the list.

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