Calmer times. Watching the sunset from the Olympic National Park in Washington, May 2014. © Jess Bruce 2015.
Last week was a horrible week. It was very stressful. I definitely lost my positive persona and spent the time in a frustrated, angry mess. No help to anyone and most definitely no help to myself.
Stress is the blue touch paper for my ME/CFS. It is the single biggest trigger of symptoms. Always has been and still is, though most of the time now symptoms are much less, I guess, because I’m much better at handling stress…I think those closest to me may question that! Though all things being relative I am much better with stress than I used to be, esepcially as I no longer take any anxiety medication thanks to the debacle over Cipralex.
I’ve written numerous times about the cause and effect relationship of stress on ME/CFS. So I won’t go into lots of detail again now. Suffice to say that ME/CFS is a neurological disorder in which our stress response essentially becomes automated and permanently on. Every little thing (from washing our hair, to going shopping, to talking to friends etc) is seen as a threat by our poor ME/CFS addled bodies. Living in perpetual stress response is highly damaging to our bodies and results in the myriad of ME/CFS symptoms. I find this stuff fascinating. For me, it was the light bulb moment about my illness. It gave clarity where nothing else made sense. But as I say, I’ve written about it before, so won’t bore you with it again now. If you want to read more, this post is a good starting point and also see this post on ME/CFS stress response and this post on the role of stress hormones in ME/CFS symptoms.
For the purpose of this post, all you need to remember is that stress is bad! It’s bad generally but for ME/CFS it’s especially bad! My ME/CFS is much better because my stress response is in check (in large part thanks to the Lightning Process and NLP techniques). My body no longer sees every day activities as a threat which has reduced my symptom load dramatically.
Whilst doing the laundry or going for a walk (or even a very very gentle jog!) are no longer threats, my stress response is still, more sensitive than that of a ‘normal’ totally healthy person.
Which brings me back to last week. Mr B and I are in the process, hopefully, touch wood, the very last stages, of selling our flat and buying a house. They (very wise people) say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do. I think also on that list is getting married, death and divorce. Oh wait, yes we’re planning our wedding and trying to move house…this was a well thought out plan. We’ll leave death and divorce far alone thank you very much. Do not want those anywhere near thank you.
If the actual logistics of packing all our stuff and physically getting it all out of this home into our next seems stressful, it is nothing compared to the ridiculous legal process of buying and selling houses in the UK (and probably many other countries too, but thankfully I’ve only had the
joy horror of experiencing it in England). Our buyer is taking her own sweet time over the whole thing, being entirely uncommunicative, making up random issues to do with our flat in order to conceal the true issue (to do with her mortgage) and has delayed the whole transaction week after week – we were meant to exchange contracts before Christmas. And now it’s February and we are still waiting. The vendor, of the beautiful big house with the amazing kitchen, that we desperately want to move into, wants everything done yesterday (or preferably last month) and is, understandably, getting more and more annoyed. This is all going on either side of us, with Mr B and I are caught in the middle, terrified that at any moment the buyer will decide actually she doesn’t want to buy our flat anymore (beautiful perk of the English legal system being no one is legally bound to follow through on the transaction until contracts are exchanged which doesn’t happen until inquiries and searches are done) or the vendor deciding enough is enough and putting the house back on the market. The whole thing has been going since end of October and threatening to blow up since early December. So we’ve been walking on egg shells and living in a state of perpetual stress and uncertainty for months.
On top of all this, last week I received an email from the owner of the apartment we’d rented for the week of our wedding telling me our booking was cancelled and the apartment was no longer available. No apology or mention of the £1000 deposit we’d paid to secure it. Nothing. So now we face a battle to get our money back and the stress of finding an alternative rental. We booked the apartment last May. The options at this point, with 6 months to go are far fewer. We’d booked the apartment as a key part of doing the wedding in a Jess ME/CFS friendly way.
A few days earlier the wedding planner at our venue had told me that our credit card had been declined when she had tried to take the next installment of our payment. After 45 minutes on the phone to our bank I learnt that she had keyed in the wrong expiry date and that was the only reason the payment hadn’t gone through. This coupled with her sending me an updated contract without half the updates we’d discussed. Our original wedding planner sadly left our venue last month so I’m now dealing with a new woman. Can’t say I’m filled with confidence.
So house and wedding both going well.
Enter increasingly very emotional Jess whose fatigue is higher than it’s been for months. I’m back to falling asleep in the afternoon for a couple of hours; not being able to fall asleep at night, feeling nauseous, crying at the drop of a hat, snapping, being wiped out by meeting a friend and generally being a delightful mess. But I haven’t had a migraine, digestion is just about behaving (as well as it ever does) and my myalgia isn’t significantly worse. So hey, maybe I am actually better at dealing with stress these days.
Breaking point came on Thursday night. Our estate agent had phoned around 7 pm to tell us that the buyer had another issue (something do with a train line that is 3 miles from our flat…) despite two days earlier telling us she was basically ready, at long last, to exchange. After dinner, in the kitchen, me with my yellow rubber gloves on doing the washing up and unable to get noodles off the bottom of a saucepan. Total melt down. Tears streaming down my face, shaking and sobbing about how we’re never going to move, everything was going wrong with the wedding and I couldn’t take anymore. Mr B promptly took the saucepan off me….
My parents are now on the case to find a new Cambridge rental (delegation is key) and I’m focusing on staying calm about the house. Supposedly there’s only one point outstanding and then we’ll be able to exchange. I’ll believe it when it happens.
But for now I have to focus on looking after myself and shielding myself from getting too overwhelmed, anxious, upset, stressed (you name it) about it all. IT IS NOT WORTH MAKING MYSELF ILL OVER. The worst relapse I’ve had in the last 18 months was last summer when for a couple of weeks I was back to acute all over body pain, zero energy, crushing fatigue, awful digestion etc etc and that was because of the stress over our first buyer pulling out and us losing a house we wanted to buy – yes we have been trying to move since LAST JULY. It’s no wonder I’m stressed!
Moral of the
story post: IT IS NOT WORTH MAKING MYSELF ILL OVER. Nothing is worth that. I will be repeating that statement a lot this week and using the Lightning Process to do calmness, along with lots of yoga, meditation and relaxation and being kind to myself. It is a stressful time, but I don’t have to get super stressed about it all. I am in control of how I feel/react. I have a choice and choose to be calm! I will sit back, breath and repeat IT IS NOT WORTH MAKING MYSELF ILL OVER.
Wish me luck.