When Fibromyalgia Causes Basic Tasks to Slip Your Mind
Starting a new term at uni, after a long and mostly restful winter break, I decided to start being more proactive in helping myself function “normally.” I can admit that I am one of the least organized people in the world, which isn’t great when being chronically ill. So, in taking advantage of this time when my symptoms were more settled, I put a plan into place.
So now, stuck to my mirror, there’s a list of about a dozen little notes, each one with something I need to remember to do for the day, under the heading of To Do, and on the other side of my mirror, one heading says Done. But don’t think that all of a sudden I decided to start being productive and setting myself all these goals to achieve. Nope. I’m talking about the most basic things that need to be done in a day.
Then once the task has been completed, it will be moved to the Done column. This has been so helpful to me! Through the haze of brain fog and fatigue, through the stress and busyness of student life, I always have a way of keeping track of what I’ve done, because it’s so easy to forget these things sometimes or to brush them off when feeling rotten.
Firstly, I encountered the problem of having such a visual thing to help me, because I live on campus with about 50 others (50 very friendly Christians), and fairly often, I would have people wander into my room, even those whom I don’t know very well. And of course, this meant I got those looks and those questions.
For people who are well, it seems bizarre that things like remembering to shower or brush your teeth aren’t second nature. But for me, these things are often the first things to slip my mind when I’m struggling. It’s so hard feeling judged for needing reminding of such basic things, but really, it’s what I need. I will not be ashamed of my needs. I will be proud of trying. Because some days, even doing these things are an achievement to be celebrated!
The second problem I faced was when, after a few good weeks, I hit the bottom again. Slowly, it became almost impossible to even complete one thing on my list. I take my meds at random points in the day – when I finally woke up mid-afternoon, when I finally ate something at 10 p.m. I’d lose track of the last time I’d actually had the energy to shower. I could just about remember to swig some mouthwash to keep fresh.
With the To Do list staying almost totally full for days on end, I was hit with disapproval. Not just from those that would visit my room, but from myself. I would feel so guilty, like such a failure. Like such an embarrassment.
And this was not OK. Sometimes, I can’t make it to the shower – but I managed to sit through one of my lectures (even if I was half asleep). Sometimes, I don’t take all my meds on time – but I still take them. Sometimes, I don’t pray – but after a week in bed, I can make it to church on Sunday.
This life isn’t about fitting a list of requirements – because sometimes, it’s just about surviving.
And we are survivors.
We are warriors, and we may not always win the battles – against the judgment of others, against our bodies, against our minds – but we are certainly winning this war. Because, despite everything in us telling us to give in to pain and despair and to give up, we keep on going, no matter how slowly.
Whether today you have gotten 10/10 simple tasks done, whether it’s five or one or half or even zero, you are still strong, still fighting and still amazing. And nothing the world tells us or even that we tell ourselves, can change that fact.
Getty Image by LittleBee80