Years ago when I was doing my undergrad at SFU, one of the doctors at the walk-in clinic there recommended a book to me called When the Body Says No. I went out and bought this book, and after flipping through it felt really offended at the recommendation. The book is about the physiological effects of stress, mainly in relation to how undealt with stress can result in chronic illnesses, auto-immune diseases, cancer, etc. I though the doctor was implying that I wasn't handling stress well, and it was making me sick. And whatever elements of truth that may have had, I found it incredibly offensive, largely because she didn't propose any solutions as far as what could help decrease the severity of my chronic health problems. So I put the book away on my shelf, and there it has sat for the past several years...yet surviving many book culls (for the sake of bookshelf sustainability).
This week, though not entirely recovered from the after effects of the flu I got a month ago, for all intents and purposes, I returned to normal life. Work, going into the office a couple days, going out to social/work events three nights in a row. I was feeling half decent at the start of the week, and I knew I was pushing it too hard the last few days. I knew better, especially after just getting back to things, but I just wasn't willing to sit out any of the stuff that was going on. So I just accepted that I would probably spend the weekend resting, and pushed through.
I had so much adrenaline coarsing through me by midweek that between that and the worst hayfever I've had in years (thanks to the early spring alder pollen), I was having trouble sleeping most of the week, and woke up this morning (at 7am thanks to the intense sunbeams) with a stomach ache and feelling pretty shaky, a breakout on my chin and and my gums all tender. That's the ugly truth of it. It's painfully obvious when I've overdone it. No question about it, my body doesn't mess around, it's just like THAT'S TOO MUCH, and I'm out for the count. And then for whatever reason, I remembered the book. When the body says no, indeed.
I think I might try and read it finally and see if there's anything useful. I feel like I have such an adversarial relationship with my body a lot of the time... But on the other hand, fighting it certainly doesn't help. It's obvious that I make choices that hinder rather than help the situation. But I've always felt like if I just rested as much as I needed to, I wouldn't go out and do much of what makes me happy. I still do think there's a more effective middle ground, but I'm not willing to put my physical health as the first priority every time. I was forced to do that last month, because I got so sick from the damage from the virus I caught that I had no other choice, it had to be done. But the cost: no social life, being stuck in my apartment, not working as much, hardly doing any Drupalling... that makes me miserable.
Anyway, obviously regardless of this being something I've lived with for almost my whole life, I haven't found the right balance yet...if that even exists. And I have never found anyone in either the traditional or alternative medicine worlds who's been willing and, more importantly, able to help me. I've run the gamut of specialists, various GP's, naturopaths, and a fleeting attempt with Chinese Medicine, and they never know what to do with me. Traditional/Western doctors don't even try. I've never found one who dared persist and try and help me with managing my chronic illness and other associated health problems. They just shrug and say things like, "I don't know what to do". And that's sad and unfair, but it's reality.
The alternative practitioners are well meaning, but have generally made me much sicker than usual because they can't really understand how sensitive my body is. After spending so much time and energy trying to get help and make progress, inevitably, the futility sets in and I resign myself to being the only person who can do anything to make the situation manageable.
So I just...manage.
I go to counseling when it's too hard for my brain. I go to the massage therapist when it's too much for my body. I talk to my bestest friends and family when it's too much for my heart. These people are the only ones who've helped me in a significant way, not because they've made me less sick, but because they help me cope. And that's all the help I've really had.
Reduce stress. Sleep. Eat. Do yoga. Write. Talk. Don't try and do this alone. Cope. Live.