I know that the concept of lost time is not unfamiliar to those of us with chronic illnesses, but it is particularly concerning for those with episodic chronic illness. Why? Because, we’re not sick ALL the time. Yet, we have periods lasting from hours to weeks where we’re not quite well. And then we have periods of days, weeks or months where we ARE quite well. The contrast between the two is, in my opinion, what drives the greater perception of lost time.
Every time I don’t feel well, there’s a sense of another day of chores lost, another day I could spend with family lost, another work day lost to sick time, opportunities for exercise lost, etc.
In my case, a migraine attack typically lasts a couple of days. A food allergy flare up typically lasts from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on many factors. My degree of disability during those episodes is also variable, ranging from nearly bed-ridden to almost fully functional.
The common element running through all the times and conditions though is the inability to do things I want to do. It’s one thing to procrastinate or avoid tasks because you don’t feel like doing them. It’s another thing to be unable to do things because you lack the physical stamina (i.e., “spoon theory,” I’ll discuss in another blog) or just don’t feel well enough to do them. I get angry and frustrated when my body doesn’t give me the choice. I also find myself loading up on chores when I do feel able to perform, I assume in compensation. Overworking myself when I’m physically able to is probably not good for me either.
I’ve found the feeling of lost time has become worse as I’ve aged. This is probably normal, as you know that you have less time ahead of you than behind. Every illness flare up brings with it a sense of getting further behind in a life where you’re already running out of time. Skipping a workout or two when young is no big deal. When you’re older, muscles that you haven’t used in a few days are going to be sorer and you can’t push your body as hard. The older we get, the longer it takes to recover and build back up again. Chronic illness causes me to lose that momentum.
I don’t have any magical solution to this dilemma other than to make the most of your time when you’re able to. Most people would say I’m not a procrastinator. When something needs to get done, I get it done. Today, I have a migraine and I had to cancel out on several planned activities. Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll feel better and can resume a normal workload.