Monday, November 28

if i talk about a rubber band, they might understand.

I like to think of myself as a rubber band. When I was born, I was an uber flexible rubber band who could spring back into original shape with ease after being stretched. I would play hard all day, and then have a good night’s sleep: by morning I was ready to do it all over again. Stretch, relax, stretch, relax.
When I tuned 16, I began stretching my band far – really far.Too far.
I rose at 5.50 am every morning.
By 6.30 am I was leaving the house for the train station.
By 8.30 am I was in Melbourne, sitting in my first class of the day.
At 4.15 I was doing my homework on the train home.
By 7.00 pm I’d eaten family dinner and begun my 2 hours of flute practice.
At 9.00 pm I was making lunch for tomorrow, about to shower and crash into bed.
I repeated this sequence of events every day for 3 years.
 I couldn’t seem to find time to relax, to let myself come back into healthy shape. I abused my elasticity. I just kept straining and stretching myself, until I was breaking and brittle. Perhaps another rubber band could stretch farther than mine, but that isn’t the point: I wasn’t taking care of my own band’s capacity.

Recreation we must have. Otherwise the strings of our soul, wound up to an unnatural tension will break. 
           - A quote from a beautiful book by  Elizabeth Prentiss-
The third year of extreme stretching, I snapped. I’d stretched the band too far, and it wasn’t about to ping into shape anymore. It lay lifelessly waiting for a repair. Eventually with the help of doctors, it was rejoined....but alas, it is no longer stretchy as it used to be. It simply can’t cope with stretching like before, and is on the verge of breaking again if I’m not vigilant about protecting it.
Most people are capable of going to work for 8 hours every day, seeing some friends, cleaning the house, doing the shopping and going out for enjoyment. I’m not – I simply do not have the resources to do those things anymore. If I do too much I feel I’m going to snap again and there are speedy and awful results:

  1. I lose the plot emotionally. I have a panic attack. I cry because I feel helpless and worried that I will snap again. 
  2.  I become physically exhausted. I have a headache, a neck ache, faintness and an irritable bowel. 

It has become a very central goal in my life to avoid bringing about these feelings for my sake, and for the sake of my husband! And I have learnt that by managing my life extremely carefully, I can keep myself from experiencing these issues.
Pacing. That’s what we call it. And to be honest, I find pacing one of the hardest things about being’s a daily battle, my brain wants to do so much more than my body... it’s infuriatingly limiting, and often misunderstood by others. 

I know what my body can handle at this current stage in my recovery:
Three big events per weeks.

  •  Alexander Technique lesson. This requires me training into the city and training back – a 3 hour trip. 
  • Going to church. Social situation and concentration required, so extremely tiring. 
  • Spending time with a friend. Great for my emotional health, often results in headaches and temperatures if more than a few hours.

So those are the biggies. They fit around the nonnegotiable regulars which are exercise every day, 1.5 hours of flute practice....and lots of wife-ing of course.
When my week looks like the one I have just outlined – I can cope. I can even feel well when I’m at home. I don’t feel that I’m being stretched to dangerous levels.
But often my week looks like this:
Person no. 1 wants to catch up as we haven’t for sometime; they are kind and want to encourage me in my sickness. They are likely to stay for over an hour which will be exhausting.
Person no. 2 is my close friend and I feel inspired and rejuvenated when I spend time with them.
Person no. 3 drops on me at the last minute a ‘social thing’ I should be doing.
Suddenly I’m in turmoil. I can’t cope. I feel utterly guilty because I should catch up with Person no. 1 and they are so keen to see me, even though personally I don’t want any more social time. Person no. 2 I really want to see, but I can’t do both so how do I decide? And Person no. 3 should know that I can’t do last minute things (last minute being less than a week before) because that would require me to cancel some of the ‘big things’ in my week so that I can attend without suffering for it. I know that if I say ‘yes’, I will suffer and feel ill – yet I have fear of saying no because I hate being a piker all the time.
I’m not feeling sick right now....but I will feel sick if I do that thing, if I say ‘yes’.
Pacing is actually about not letting myself get to the sick/can’t cope stage. So I have to say ‘no’ as a precaution. I have to even choose to only see people who are ‘good for me’ because the other people use up precious energy...more feelings of guilt.
So when it comes to organising my week, I struggle. I agonise over every little decision and fine tune my week until it’s manageable. Sometimes I fail at that, and suffer for it. People are tiring, some more tiring than others, so I have to monitor how long I see them for – and awkwardly set specific times for the end of visits. People who arrange things late make me on edge: I can’t do it if I didn’t work everything else around it. When something is canceled, I literally do a dance. I am overjoyed that I can just stay in my little house where I have the most chance of feeling well – and concentrate on exercise and flute.
How I love feeling well! But how I hate how few things I can do for others, and what a big deal each thing is – I wish I were better at pacing. I wish I were more thick skinned in saying ‘no’– I am so blessed to have three wise people who spur me on...who say to me, “you just have to do it. It’s the only way you’re going to get better.” Sometimes, the sad reality is that I need to sacrifice events and relationships so that I can feel well and continue to heal and recover.

Please let me protect my rubber band, don’t make me stretch it too far.


  1. really helpful to understand the daily struggles Dee. Will pray for strength for you to keep making the hard decisions to protect your health.

  2. So well explained and so frustratingly TRUE xx Sandra t