When I Hit 'the Wall' of Medical Testing Exhaustion


I hit a wall! A medical journey wall. I think that is the best way to describe it.

My husband is a runner. He has done a marathon and a couple of half marathons. I have never been a runner, it dates back to junior high when we had to run the “Park Mile.” There were two groups of kids, those that competed for the best time and those that walked it, taking the whole class period with no time to spare – I was in the latter group.

But back to the wall – my husband is a runner and likes to explain to me what running is like. He said when you are training that you push and push, trying to eventually go beyond the miles you are training for. If you are training for a half marathon, your practice and training will take you beyond the 13.1 miles expected on the day of the race. He said this is because on the day of the race, you will hit a wall. Most everyone does, even after training for months. He said the wall is a point of total exhaustion, when you either want to give up, lay down and quit, or you dig deep and push through knowing it is just “the wall.” Because I am not a runner and never have been, I didn’t fully understand even after he has explained this to me through the years. But today I understand because I hit a wall.

I hit a medical wall. I have been going for so long, trying to learn all I can to take care of myself, giving what knowledge I can to other patients, and “doing the steps.” I am exhausted.

I have an excellent support system cheering me on and handing me water when I need it, but at nine years I hit a wall. I am mentally exhausted and I need just a couple of months of only regularly scheduled appointments. I am certain that it is my chronic illness wall.

And, you know what fellow warriors? It is OK to hit a wall.

In fact, last night I emailed one of my physicians to ask if we could delay testing because mentally, I needed a medical testing break. It was absolutely scary to admit, but I feel like if I cannot be honest with my physicians (especially those with whom I have a long-term relationship with), who can I be honest with?

Let’s face it, my rheumatologist probably knows more about my life than my priest. I was scared to send the email and I was scared to read her response. I feared I would be seen as a combative patient, not following the rules. But that wasn’t the case at all. She responded that it was OK to hold the testing and we could reevaluate things at my next appointment in three months. And then she wrote the words that brought the most peace – she said that if my issues grew worse in the next three months to just email her and she could order the testing then.

Why did it bring peace? Because it allowed me the mental detox I am craving. She validated my need for a break. And now a weight has been lifted because for three months, I am allowed to stop, walk for awhile, put my hands on my knees, and breathe deep before I continue on my marathon. Now, I do realize that it doesn’t mean things may or may not pop up and my body may have other plans. But, for today, I hit my wall and I am getting it together so I can continue on.

In our chronic illness journey, we encourage each other to continue to fight, continue to learn, continue to “do the steps” – but we don’t often talk about “the wall.” I know I am not the only warrior who has been here and I certainly know it will come again since I’m on my third or fourth wall already in my journey. I’ve learned that it is absolutely OK to hit a wall. Also, it is absolutely OK to tell people that you hit the wall. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it.

Runners are not embarrassed to talk about it because it isn’t about the wall. It is about the race. The wall is only a part of the run, and it certainly isn’t the whole run. Will I pick myself up and continue on my journey? Absolutely. I have come this far. But if you need me for the next three months, I am just going to be here taking a break before overcoming my wall.

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