It's OK to Take a 'Couch Day'


It’s a couch day today, and sometimes I just have to acknowledge that a couch day is OK — that I can lose myself in the pain for a while, call it quits for the day, and lounge around in my trackies, with the cat, on the couch. Sometimes that just has to be OK. Some days I cannot just feel the pain and do it anyway.

The pain thing is complicated: it’s always with me, and some days it may be that I just lose some of my fortitude and cannot push myself up in front of the pain, and I get lost in it for a while. I like to think I cope with it pretty well; I don’t often succumb to an unplanned couch day, although I do regularly indulge in splat Saturdays to recover from the week that was.

Answering the question “what is the pain?” is also a complication; how do I explain the “normal” level of pain I function with every day and then explain the tipping point that finds me on the couch today and not at my desk at work? Is it even possible?

The short answer today is adrenal fatigue. I’ve been under extra stress recently, as the end date looms and publication of the facts leading up to my son Harry’s death becomes more than just a hypothetical ideal. Adrenal fatigue explains away my extreme exhaustion, the way every joint in my body aches, the way I’m craving potato chips (salt) and I scoffed the last of the chocolate freddo frogs (sugar).

It is a bigger picture story though; my poor old adrenal glands do not cope with stress because I have suppressed them for years with the corticosteroids I take to keep my lungs happy. My lungs are deeply unhappy with me since a failed aspirin desensitization trial about nine years ago that has left them permanently infected… and rather painful, in and of themselves.

The stress since Harry died has also exhibited itself in stomach issues, and I have found if I seriously limit my food choices (no gluten and onions in particular), my belly sort of behaves, and I don’t have too many pain attacks. When the stress pushes my sluggish adrenals too far though, I can almost guarantee my stomach will follow suit, regardless of the food I feed it (even if the potato chips and freddo frogs are gluten-free).

My old lady bones also started to complain bitterly at me. I’ve developed osteoarthritis in my hands and feet and have a limited tolerance to pain killers.

It’s not all new though, this pain thing. It is something I have always known, I have a condition called Samter’s Triad. As a child, I suffered severe, chronic asthma, and was in and out of hospital a lot. When I was 10, Mum discovered I was allergic to aspirin in a rather dramatic (and potentially life-threatening) way. As a teenager I started growing polyps in my sinuses, and 12 operations later, my sinuses look really weird on scans, I have permanent nerve damage in my face, and chronic headaches, that often tip over into the land of migraines.

So it’s complicated then, my reasons for needing a couch day. It’s because I woke up at 5 a.m. with a horrible headache and a not-enough-sleep hangover. It’s because, when I got out of bed, I had to walk like a penguin because the joints in my toes and feet had frozen, and bending them was agony. It’s because even coffee couldn’t make me shake the sluggishness, and even the lived-in determination I apply to every day wouldn’t kick in to help me deal with the pain that was shouting in every part of my body.

It’s because I have a couch and a cat, and today I just needed to stop for a while. I anticipate that a day of nothing will be frustrating enough to push me back into coping mode again, and if I coddle my adrenals over the weekend (trying, of course, to avoid the lure of potato chips and chocolate), in a quiet, stress-free environment that ideally includes more than a few hours sleep at night, I will pull myself back into my normal, where yes, there is pain: pain I can feel… and do it anyway.

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Thinkstock photo by jacob lund


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