Thursday, 15 September 2016

Me and Mr Toad

“Me and Mr. Toad”

As mentioned in a previous post, reading kids books is one of the nicest things about glandular fever. Kids books can be easier to digest, very clever, and often gloriously silly. Which is a good thing if you have brain fog and also need some distraction from bed-bound gloominess.

I recently borrowed The Wind in the Willows from the public library, and it was great. I'm sure it was read to me as a kid, but I had forgotten most of the whimsical location, storyline, and the endearing idiosyncrasies of its 4 main characters.

At one point in the story, Mole, Ratty and Badger decide that something needs to be done about their generous, but reckless friend Mr Toad. Toad has a new obsession with new shiny motorcars that go “poop poop”. However he is constantly terrorising the roads, crashing, and getting in trouble with the law. His friends decide they need to lock him in his room and keep watch over him until the addiction to speed wears off, he repents his ways and he promises to be a more humble, responsible Toad.

But Toad is a sneaky conniving amphibian and he escapes out the window. Once free, he cannot help himself from stealing a motorcar and careening off to the open road, feeling the wind rushing past his face, going faster and faster, feeling mightily pleased and congratulating himself on what a clever, daring and handsome Toad he is. It is only when he is thrown in jail that he descends into gloom and misery, bewails his ostentatious ways, and berates himself for having been so arrogant. Although when he escapes, he immediately begins composing over-the-top self-congratulatory speeches and songs again.

With chronic fatigue, discipline is the main tool needed to save up and store energy for recovery. Careful, mathematical pacing of activity is the only proven way that people have used to get better. Alhough it doesn't work for everyone, it has a much greater success rate than any magical and expensive vitamin mix on the Internet. So even if I feel healthy and strong one day, I need to rest. The rules say so. A very common thing with chronic fatigue is that the response to exercise is delayed. (This is known as post exertional malaise) . At the time you might be feeling great and having fun, and so you don't notice any subtle signals that you have done too much. Its not until the next day that you get a very clear signal that you overshot the mark. For me, I can't get out of bed and the yucky fluey feeling is coursing through my veins and hammering around inside my glands.

But, discipline is so BORING! It denies all the and fun and joy and vigour in life! When I think of “discipline” I imagine a teenage boy (sorry for genderism) on detention after school. Its a glorious sunny afternoon, and all he wants to do is run and playfight with his friends outside, kick balls and romp about being a major buffoon. But he got caught doing something naughty and rebellious in class, and now he is glowering at the teacher and feeling utterly resentful, angry and caged in. Discipline sucks!

I am like Toad, in that on days when I feel good and I get a whiff of freedom and strength, I get all self-congratulatory. “This must be it, Jen. The start of your recovery. You've hit rock bottom and it's all up from here! Well done for being so sensible and good at looking after yourself that you're getting better now! You are an awesome health machine! Wooohooo, what shall I do with all my energy tomorrow?? Watch out world!!! Poop poop!”

And then, “tomorrow”, I can't get out of bed and I'm like “Jen, you complete idiot. You are like a stupid dumb monster blundering around with your eyes closed and falling into holes all over the place. How many times has this happened before? You know you need to tread carefully, because you are just too dumb to see when you're about to fall in a hole. You got too cocky, you crashed the car and you got turfed in a ditch again.”

If you've broken your leg and are now wearing a plaster cast, it is to protect yourself, from yourself. It may be frustrating, but you can't break out of it without considerable effort. But when you need to impose the rigid cast of discipline on your activities, and it's not actually a real, tangible constraint, its just made-up, best-guess sort of stuff (no more than 2000 steps a day! Have a rest every afternoon!), then its really hard!

And so I thought yesterday, that I need to change my attitude towards discipline.

Not as a stupid mean old teacher putting me in unfair detention.

But as a kind and loving friend who cares about me more than anything. Like Mole, Ratty and Badger, locking obstinate old Mr Toad in his room. Discipine is kind. It helps me, it protects me, it keeps me safe. I need it.

"Discipline, my dear kind friend, may I always recognise your wisdom and your support, and be able to distinguish you from fear and imagined limitations. "

No more "poop pooping"

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