Sunbathing Reveals All

7 Aug
Not a cloud in the sky. Photo by Jess B.

Not a cloud in the sky. Photo by Jess B.

Sat on my sun lounger by the pool in the shade under a big umbrella looking up at the crystal blue skies, I’m struck by just how nice this is.

It may seem like I’m stating the obvious here. I’m in France enjoying gorgeous high summer sunshine, with nothing to do but snooze and rest by the side of our pool, in the lush gardens of the beautifully restored immaculate French gite, we are lucky enough to call our own for this fortnight.

Obviously it’s nice!

But what I’m struck by as particularly nice is being sat in the shade.

Mr B is laying on a lounger a few metres from me soaking up the sun. He has commented more than once ‘how times change’ or ‘you’ve changed’…. I think he means for the better.

What he’s referring to is that I’m not on a lounger adjacent to him, rotating my body in line with the sun, turning onto my front regularly so as to get an even tan, holding a book at an oddly uncomfortable angle so as to prevent any shadow from crossing my body, in an itsy bitsy bikini with the halter neck straps tied uncomfortably round my torso in a fashion that made moving without flashing a nipple pretty impossible. All so as to avoid any pesky strap lines…

The fact I use the word uncomfortable twice in that last paragraph is not mere coincidence. My sunbathing rituals and habits were, on reflection, not at all enjoyable or comfortable!

But don’t worry I was skin care aware. I offset my skin cancer risk by dousing myself every hour in copious amounts of sun lotion. I was paranoid about getting burnt. I think I supported Nivea and Ambre Solaire all by myself the amount of white stuff I’d get through on a holiday.

Though I did have one incredibly stupid burn incident way back when. My 17 year old self laid for hours on Perpignan beach in the south of France on my front without rolling over. Apparently ignoring my parents advice to change position or you know, get out of the sun. But no of course I didn’t listen. The result? Me having to go into a pharmacy and ask in French for some anti burn cream. The stuff they gave me on looking at my poor brΓ»lΓ©ed super red back and thighs was for first degree burns….yes well done Jess, should have listened to my Mum after all. But did it stop me? No of course not! It was to take a much bigger event 9 years later before I saw sense.

These were the habits of the Jess in my previous life, my life before ME/CFS struck me down. Or as is perhaps more apt before ME/CFS saved me from myself. Crippling myalgia pain that is currently slowly but surely strangling my neck and other obvious negatives aside, I do genuinely have things to be thankful for from ME/CFS.

Looking back now, ah how wonderful the gift of hindsight is, I was a crazy person! And a good dose of my craziness came out on holidays. I was one of those people who set her alarm on holiday, why waste time lazing in bed when you can snooze by the pool in the sun? Mr B would be one of those people out by the pool laying out towels on sun loungers perfectly positioned in line with the sun, away from trees and other obstacles, before the sun was even fully up – as you’ve probably guessed this was not done of his own volition…..

But how times change. Or rather how times have changed me. Can I justify or excuse my crazy sunbathing behaviour? Was I just young (yes) and a bit stupid (apparently so)? But it seems to me there were greater things at work.

The Jess on holiday was the same crazy person back home too. My sunbathing rituals was me pre ME/CFS in a microcosm. It’s just one example of the frantic and frenetic (you might say downright crazy), type A perfectionist, driven, hardworking, push on through person that I was (and that I think definitely contributed to my fall from grace with ME/CFS but that analysis is saved for another post another day).

If I was going to get a sun tan I wanted it to be the best it could possibly be. No half hearted attempts from me. If I didnt get my best tan then i’d failed. No grey areas with me. All black and white. Perfect tan or failed. Yes well that is clearly mentally unsound, but we’ll leave delving into the murky psycho world of Jess’ mind for another day…

I wanted the best tan I could so that people back home would think I was good….again pop psychology aside but isn’t it amazing how sunbathing habits reveal so many carefully hidden personality traits…

But back to the situation at hand and my lounger in the shade.

Baking myself silly may have been an option in a previous life but my body struggles to manage its own temperature in the coolness of a moderate (read wet Enish) clime never mind the sweat inducing heat of the high 30s+ (Celsius) temperatures of a Mediterranean sun. So firmly in the shade am I. And it is so NICE! Reading without shadow or tan line anxieties…so much nicer. Sat up rather than laying on my front in a poorly aligned distorted cobra pose to tan my back, so much nicer! Not rotating with the sun, so much nicer!

And no little bikini for me these days either. I’m a classy one piece girl now, with the odd tankini thrown in as a throwback to my bikini days. This is partly to avoid whale watch warnings when I enter the pool thanks to the stone or more (16lbs at the pre holiday count) extra weight I carry these days thanks to ME/CFS’s aversion to fat burning exercise (you don’t lose many calories meditating) – my sister Lou will tell me off for ‘talking smack about myself’. I include whale references not to put myself down but merely for the purposes of creative hilarity πŸ™‚

My increased clothing cover also means I need to spend less time and energy in the fight against the nasties of sunburn at best or skin cancer at worst. When you measure your energy in spoons then this is an important consideration. But yes, sun lotion sales in the UK have plummeted in recent years…

Mr B has commented more than once that he’s going to buy me a burkini…. Not sure I want to know on what basis this desire stems from. Some things are better left unsaid!

Has illness changed you? My sunbathing anecdotes are just one example of the many ways I have mellowed and changed through ME/CFS, all definitely for the better. More on other changes in a future post. Though it is safe to say a bit of the crazy is still with me, I still have quirks and ridiculous worries. But unlike before ME/CFS, I’m actually aware of these now and working on them. Rather than being just too frantic and frenetic to even notice.

On that note I shall return to my oh so nice snoozing in the shade.

A bientΓ΄t!


17 Responses to “Sunbathing Reveals All”

  1. starrystez August 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Sounds lovely! Illness has definitely changed me. It has slowed me down, made me more aware of what’s important in life (relationships etc) and aligned my to my spiritual faith. It has also made me trust myself more rather than let myself be led by what other people want me to be.

    • myjourneythrume August 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      I’m the same. Illness has definitely slowed me down and made me see what’s really important. It’s helped my self confidence too as it sounds like it has you too. V glad to hear there are positives from illness for you too.

  2. triciaruth August 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    I have gained about 4st in the 16 years since I was misdiagnosed with Glandular Fever, most of it in the first year. Since then I have been stuck, loosing a bit when things are going well and I can stick to a healthier eating plan but it rushing back on when things aren’s to great and I slip back into my comfort eating ways.

    Exercise was always my key to loosing weight, I’d ride once or twice a day as well as dance for 4-hours a week 2-3 times a week or do 2-3 high impact aerobics classes a week. Without the ability to exercise like that I find it hard to find the will-power to shift the weight solely through changing my eating habits. It is frustrating.

    • myjourneythrume August 8, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

      I totally know what you mean about it being frustrating. I yo-yo back and forth from where My weight is now as a result of me being really strict with my food plan to being a stone heavier when I put it all back on when I’m not so strict. Without exercise it is really tough. But upside is I’m much less weight conscious now than I was when I was healthy and ‘thin’.

  3. currankentucky August 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Hahahaha re the perfection tendencies! A friend of my husbands recently asked how I was doing and how I was coping without doing house cleaning and scrubbing, referring to my OCD tendencies. ME has slowed me down to realise and appreciate the better things in life. My birds, hares and other wildlife in our garden, when I am with a friend I am there, focused on our conversation, everything else waits. Not being able to do all I used to be able to do makes me appreciate twenty minutes with a friend or being able to eat lunch out, or sitting in the car while my husband brings me for a drive. Its simply the simple things!

    • myjourneythrume August 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

      You’re so right, it really is the simple things that matter now. I’m exactly the same I notice and enjoy the colour of flowers in the garden now whereas before I barely had the time to even notice them. I also focus only on one thing at once like you say you do too tho that is partly as a result of me not being able to split my attention without feeling exhausted and scrambled – do you get that? That difficulty to concentrate on the conversation you’re having if there’s any kind of background or other noise?

      • currankentucky August 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

        Agggghhhhh we are so on the same page, freaky. I completely get that. When I am meeting friends for lunch and the cafe is busy I have to keep pulling my brain back, away from the dishes, the chatter, the sneezing, the clanking, my ears are now like dogs ears. They hear everything. When I am writing I need no noise in order to do so, my husband is often told to whisper or simply “shut up” as I am trying to think. I cant handle thinking in noise. As for doing one task at a time, yip, im no longer a multi tasker, I need all my energy to complete the one task at hand, there isnt room to spread my battery over multiple tasks. My consultant actually advised me doing a short day course on the practice of mindfulness, not sure if you know it but its basically living each day in meditation, by focusing on one task at a time and calming the body sort of thing. I turned up to the class and within minutes was designated a freak as the exercises were easy for me. Others struggled with thoughts and knots in stomachs, focusing, while I was able to focus on the meditation as my brain was empty, doing that one task was all I could do, there wasnt room for other thoughts. I felt like a guru leaving the class but also felt strange as I couldnt remember what it feels like to have all those thoughts and worries. I used to worry over silly things, now I simply cant, I dont have the energy to worry. Recently my husband was pretty irate over an issue, and rightly so, he vented to me thinking I too would get all hot headed, instead I sat on my couch trying to focus on his conversation and when he was done I simply shrugged my shoulders and smiled. I wasnt trying to be smart, I just didnt have the energy for the same reaction as him. Its all very strange and its so hard to explain to someone who has never suffered from ME. Most of the time I come across as if Ive lost my mind!

      • myjourneythrume August 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

        ‘Have to keep pulling my brain back’ yes yes yes that’s exactly how I feel. I also know what you mean about not having the energy to react in an irate way. My other half is still taken aback sometimes I think when I seem so calm and laid back at some bad turn of events that he’s annoyed at and that I pre ME would have been fuming about too. He often says ‘you’ve changed’ and I have and in that respect it’s definitely for the better! But it’s more I just feel numb, like I just haven’t the energy to respond. I love mindfulness meditations too, tho my mind does wander sometimes. I like Jon Kabat Zinns recordings. It’s nice chatting with others who totally get it πŸ™‚

      • currankentucky August 10, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

        Me too!! Its so hard to explain and such a nice surprise when someone “gets me!” Hope your having a good weekend!

  4. Chronic Situation August 8, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    This idea of the type A personality being prone to ME is an interesting one, I have heard the term IMP being used for this type of personality – Intense Meticulous Perfectionists. There may be something to it – and I personally can identify to a certain extent – though we also have to be careful not to let this idea turn into a situation where we blame ourselves, or are blamed by others, for our condition.
    I do know that my priorities have changed a good amount over my illness, and that I have, by necessity, learned to not stress certain things that would have wound me up. I suppose it’s all about balance.

    • myjourneythrume August 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      IMP definitely applies to me – less so now than before but still applies, am still working on that. You’re right about self blame tho I kind of see it that my personality isn’t by choice…perhaps that’s letting myself out of jail free but actually I think there’s truth in it. It is definitely all about balance, that’s a very important lesson to learn.

  5. thehomeschoolingdoctor August 8, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    I didn’t have a way to post a comment on your reblog–but it was very good to read. So I’m going to comment here. I’m so sorry that diagnoses we don’t understand get bad labels and dismissed.

    • myjourneythrume August 8, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

      Thank you Terri, that means a lot. I just count myself lucky not to be as sick with this illness as I could be. Even on a bad day, which sadly today is for me, things could be a lot worse. It puts everything in perspective and makes me grateful.

  6. starrystez August 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Hi again, I hope you don’t mind me asking but how did you cope on the flight over (assuming you did go by plane?) as I’m potentially going on holiday with my mum next year and I also have M.E and POTS (quite severely). It’ll be a bit risky and I’ll be in a wheelchair but I’m desperate to go abroad again as it’s been over a decade. I’d be grateful for any advice or suggestions.

    • myjourneythrume August 20, 2013 at 9:16 am #

      Hey! Of course I don’t mind you asking! I’m glad my experience can help others. I’m going to write a post about how I coped with the flying so watch out for more info but here’s some for now. I did fly both ways to France. I too was in a wheelchair. Call your airline ahead of time and book wheelchair assistance for the airports. If you’re taking your own wheelchair they’ll carry it for free and you should be able to stay in it until you board. If not, they’ll provide you with a chair (and an assistant to push if needs be also free of charge) to use in the airport. Generally they’ll give you an assistant to take you through security/ passport control etc so you don’t drain all your energy in some long queue and also you’ll board the plane first. If you’re not taking your own wheelchair you can still book wheelchair assitance for the airports, they provide the chair for free. Airports inevitably end up with long walks so having a wheelchair is vital I think. I use D-Ribose daily to help stabilize my energy and I took extra on the flight days to give me a bit more of a boost. Take loads of snacks cos finding intolerance friendly food is nigh on impossible! I have a memory form neck pillow and good headphones and listened to relaxation tracks once in the air and tried to use the flight as rest time. I also took pre-emptive pain killers. I flew in April to the US to visit my sister taking all of these precautions and coped surprisingly well. I took melatonin and slept/dozed pretty much the whole 8 hour flight. Yes I was in pain cos of sitting up all that time and very fatigued but it was okay. I actually think the longer flight was helpful in this regard. Flying to France was only 1 hour 30 minutes each way which meant by the time we were up it was practically time to start the descent! I had no problems in April with take off and landing (bigger plane? my POTS wasn’t as bad then? who knows!) but this last trip to France, especially the return flight I felt awful on both take off and landing. I felt so dizzy and nauseous and like my the insides of my head were doing somersaults. I won’t go on with the horrible detail as really don’t want to put you off. Once we were in the air I felt okay. Would I fly again with ME/CFS and POTS? Yes tho not until I’ve got the POTS a bit more stabilized as I think that is what caused the problems. Also I do think a longer flight is ironically better than a shorter one. Also our return flight from france was early evening so I’d had the whole day to get through (I rested as much as I could but hard when you have to check out of your hotel etc) so I was incredibly tired come flight time. So I would fly again but probs not in a tiny plane on a short flight. I would also go for a morning flight. Where are you thinking of going? I think the mental boost of a trip is invaluable and with planning and precautions I think it can be done without too much detrimental impact on ME/CFS and POTS. Good luck! Don’t hesitate to ask if you’d like to know more, hope this has been helpful.

      • starrystez August 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

        Oh thanks so much! This is just the sort of info and encouragement I need! I haven’t flown since my M.E has been bad and not at all with pots, so I’m concerned about how I’ll cope. It’s great to hear that it wasn’t too bad for you despite feeling pretty sick at times. I get travel sick anyway so will need to cope with that. The info about the airline is great. My mum is thinking about Gibraltar and I hope to hire a mobility scooter when there so she isn’t tied to pushing me and I can have a bit of independence. I’ll need a downstairs hotel room or at least one with a lift. Thanks again – I’ll look out for your post on flying x

      • myjourneythrume August 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

        Gibraltar is meant to be lovely isn’t it, hope you manage to go and enjoy yourself. The mobility scooter is a great idea. Independence and feeling in control is something I miss greatly and I think a scooter would help lots with that. If you have any other questions please do ask. I will get writing that post on flying Jx

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