The saying "everything has a price" is seldom more relevant to me than after a "good" day--meaning a day I feel well enough or am medicated enough to do something fun or normal.
Even if the day or activity itself goes off without a hitch, it's still something that is beyond what my body is usually capable of, and much like a healthy person, there is a price to be paid for that. Unlike a healthy person, the cost is considerably higher for me in a multitude of ways.
I call it the Aftercrash.
Doctors call it the Let-down Effect --"In the immediate aftermath of stressful times -- perhaps following an anxiety-producing project at work or a major family crisis -- when you finally have time to take a deep breath and unwind, that's when illness can unexpectedly strike. Just when you're letting down your hair, your ability to fight off illnesses may let you down.
"This effect has been associated with conditions such as upper respiratory infections, the flu, migraine headaches, dermatitis, arthritis pain, and depression," says Schoen, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA."
Whatever you call it, it strikes with a vengeance when you often think the worst is past or that you've gotten off easy, and even good stress (yes, that's a thing) and excitement can bring on an episode. Chronic illness and chronic pain sufferers are very susceptible to the Aftercrash and the havoc it wreaks for anything from a small outing to a major event.
We all have our limits that our bodies say "okay, that's enough" to, even if we're in perfect health. Society praises those who excel beyond the limits and push themselves despite them, and we with chronic illnesses do this very regularly even though it's sometimes detrimental to us. We are the don't-quit poster children, it seems, trying to still do it all while smiling through the pain.
And while I believe acceptance and knowing our limits is very important--limits can keep us alive, after all--that's a subject for another post, because today I'm embracing the aftercrash.
Yes, you read that correctly. I'm celebrating it.
I'm celebrating the pain that is too much today even while I practice self care and recover, because it means I didn't just exist for a day, I LIVED, despite knowing it would cost me.
The world of chronic illness is frequently a balancing act spent weighing the consequences of doing something that means we may not be capable of something else. Even a shower is a planned activity for us that can sap us enough to make it our only activity of the day. And knowing these crashes are coming or likely and what may bring them on is an all-important key to navigating our lives.
Sometimes we let that knowledge that the aftercrash is coming prevent us from doing something we want to do...we let the fear of what's coming stop us from living in the now. And some days our illness just plain wins.
But some things, days, or even moments are worth it...because otherwise we wouldn't have the good memories to balance out the bad, unbearable days.
For those moments, we have lived without fear. We didn't let our illness keep us from the moments that matter.
And that is sometimes a price worth its weight in gold.