Home / Blog Posts / Fatigue and the Black Dog / Diary of a Chronically Exhausted Vicar. Episode 28

In which I appear to have taken further strides towards living well with chronic illness.

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar image

I finished the stroke, stepped onto the step, and smiled, from deep within: I feel amazing. 

This afternoon’s hydrotherapy included three sets of ‘swimming’: three or four strokes of breaststroke towards the spa seats, stop, turn, glide back, turn and go again, in a gentle, steady, constant rhythm, for ten minutes. After ten minutes, each time, I could have kept swimming. But I stopped, sat in a spa seat with the jets on for the 20 minute cycle, then swam for ten minutes more. Swim, spa, swim, spa, swim.
It is important that I place boundaries on the swimming, for as I’m sure I’ve noted before, in this season of the illness, feeling better, but not out the other side (not by a long way), diligent caution is necessary. If I rush on, push through, do all I feel I can right now, I’ll burn out again. It needs to be a steady increase in activity.
It works. For six weeks ago when the spa arrived, mostly what I did for an hour was sit with the jets on, float around a bit, and perhaps five or ten minutes of breaststroke / gliding overall. I was careful. I moved, but gently, letting my muscles get used to moving, before asking them to work too much.
Gradually I have increased the strength of the movements, with tai chi like arm movements under the water for resistance, a minute, two, three, of backstroke arms with feet hooked under the rail, and more and more breaststroke / glide for longer sets.
And here I am today, feeling my lungs stretch and cope with the increased cardio demand, listening to my arms and legs wanting to move with strength and hold the rhythm, feeling blood course through my body without the lethargy, carrying oxygen further … here I am, with greater capacity for movement, because, slowly, I found a way to begin to move.

I turned out the light, snuggled under the quilt, and smiled, from deep within: I am happy. 

Almost every night of the past 12, that was the picture.
The first, because the next day I was going to Adelaide.
Then, because I was in Adelaide, at my sister’s home, for my nephew’s birth, there when the pipe burst at my parents’ house and able to pitch in and help for the day; because I’d spent time with my niece and been the one she turned to for cuddles, play, stories, help; because I’d seen my sister and brother-in-law with their newborn in their arms (I missed out on the first days for my niece, living in Edinburgh when she was born); because I’d sat with friends and talked, easily, about the deep things, and it hadn’t been at all as though there were months between conversations; because I was back in Canberra and I like the home I am making here, the community of faith in which I serve here.

In between all the activity of the past 12 days, there has been much sleep – some nights for 11 hours, if I don’t set the alarm and let myself sleep as long as I need. There has been rest in between things. there has been creativity, there has been space in which to breathe.

Here I am, with greater capacity for movement, because, slowly, I have found a way to move through the days gently, but I have insisted on continuing to move.

I sit down to write, in my library which today I have tidied and rearranged, and I smile, from deep within: this has been a good day. 

It was one of those 11 hour sleep nights last night. But even with half the day slept away, I washed two sets of sheets, achieved the goal I set for the day, spent a good hour talking with a good friend, and swam.
My home office had got unruly, papers everywhere, letters requiring action buried and forgotten, receipts not processed in a personal money managing process that is months out of date. I haven’t been using my library – for that is how I prefer to think of it – and what is the point of having a dedicated room for books and words, poems and stories, if I don’t use it for such?
My computer has been slowly dying for years (I spent the whole PhD years hoping it wouldn’t die before I was finished). A new one will be in place next week.
The desk wasn’t quite in the right place, but I’ve not had the muscle strength to even consider moving it. Until now.
I moved the desk, once I unearthed the desk from the weight of its papery burdens. It has opened the room considerably, and I think I finally have space for the wing back chair I’ve been wanting to add to the library. I have filed some papers (many in the recycling or shredding box), and have a small pile still to file, and another of things to deal with.

And here I am, it would seem, having reshaped my external space with openness and clarity to reflect a greater clarity of mind I realise I am experiencing for the first time in many, many months. I have found a way to move through the fog, cautiously, one step at a time.

It is a long road I have still to travel, to recovery from this chronic exhaustion, and I am aware that recovery may only ever be a journey, not a destination.

I have confidence, this evening, as I sit here and consider where I am on that journey, that I can persevere. I have hope that I may, one day, arrive. I have gratitude for the support and encouragement I receive to help me endure; and for my own learning and ability to apply what I learn to set practices in place that keep me moving toward healing. I have peace, knowing that I am indeed living well, as well as possible, within chronic illness: peace, and deep joy.