|Oreo enjoying some sunshine and grass|
One of the popular tools to explain invisible, chronic illness is the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. I encourage people to read the essay when they have a chance but in summary, it's a way of demonstrating how little things add up over the course of a day, a week, a month to sap the energy and wellness of many people with chronic illness, especially illness that causes fatigue. Another analogy I like is lightweight backpacking. Individual items may not seem like they take up a lot of space or weigh a lot, but the full combination can be a lot to deal with.
The small things that so many "normal" people take for granted can have big effects on us. Here are some of the small things that I used to take for granted:
- Showering. It's now something that requires me to rest for at least 15 or 20 minutes afterwards even though I use a shower chair, have very short hair, and use 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner all in an effort to make it as efficient as possible.
- Washing dishes. Standing for extended periods often makes my lower back spasm and my neck knot up and seems to drain me of energy pretty quickly. Reynaud's disease interferes with the blood flow to my hands, fingers, feet and toes making water that is too hot or too cold physically painful. It can also make holding a cup with hot or cold beverage in it painful. Cup cozies are my new best friends.
- Doing laundry. Picking up and carrying a hamper makes my head pound and my back grumpy. Not being able to see the floor messes with my balance in a big way. Folding clothes is sometimes painful if my arthritis is flaring or I have migraine-related pain and stiffness in my neck.
- Shopping. The long walk around the store is tiring. The lighting and noise and motion is almost too much to deal with sometimes. Trying to remember what I need, even with a list is a challenge. Making a decision on which item to purchase can sometimes seem overwhelming.
- Watching TV. A migraine can sometimes make TV absolute torture. Days when my brain is foggy just makes it surreal and confusing.
But in the same way that little things can add up to make me feel worse, they can also add up to make me feel a bit better.
- Oreo is a little thing who can almost always make me smile, if only for a little bit.
- Hugs or commiseration or understanding from friends and family.
- A good book.
- Silly things on the internet
- Sweet, thoughtful things from my husband like a candy I particularly like or special snuggles.
- Gentle stretching or yoga that helps keep me moving and helps with some pain.
- Satisfaction with small victories like showering or doing the dishes.
- Creature comfort things like a favorite body oil or a comfy hoody or a nice skein of yarn or wonderful fiber to spin.