This post is quite long, pace yourselves 😉😂
I’m very good at reining myself in. I genuinely think it’s because I’m quite boring and very sensible. Always have been. If a teacher set homework and then forget, I’m afraid I was the one who’d raise their hand to remind them that they had indeed set some and that it was due that day. Hi and sorry to my school friends.
So most days, when I feel ‘okay’ (my okay is not your okay, and it is certainly not the kind of okay of a non-chronically-ill person ) I will think to myself that I could chip away at a little project, or list some things on eBay, or put some clothes away.
And more often than not I will not let myself do it because I’ll think back over the last week and identify something similar that I’d done.
Reader, not much gets done in our house (by me) as a result! I have a pile of clothes to sell on eBay that have been gathering dust since this time last year, because there has never been a big enough gap between Doing Things to chip away at that task.
I’m never sure how I feel about the rhetoric that high-achieving, driven, perfectionists struggle to pace, because, well, I don’t really and I was once those things. Now, given the choice, I will nearly always choose what is best for my body over what I would like to do or what might need doing. Boring to most people but we’ve already established I’m boring. And knowing the depths this illness can take me to, I will opt for boring in an attempt to reduce my suffering.
It isn’t an exact science. Resting in cluttered surroundings is hard, and I can get fed up and low about that. Sometimes I am so unbelievably fed up of my clutter and my restrictions, that I will not make the sensible choice. But I think my years of not being able to do much more than breath and survive, gave me some new kind of resistance to the mess around me; to some of the things I can’t control. When you physically cannot change your surroundings, it is far more peaceful to try not to waste precious energy worrying about that.
A good support network plays a huge part in my ability to just let the To Do list remain the same for months on end. That’s not said to do myself down. I do work hard on this whole pacing thing. But if I didn’t have support around me, and people cheering me on to prioritise my body over all else, then it would surely be so much harder to even attempt to pace.
If my husband put pressure on me to ‘keep house’ then it could well be the lesser of two evils to try to tick something off; the lesser evil in that case being the inevitable aftermath from asking something of my poorly body.
When we first moved in together I made myself ‘crash’ often by trying to play housewife. My worth was/still can be attached to my productivity and my contribution.
He sat me down (I was probably already sitting, you know me) and said he’d much rather come home to messy house and an Anna who had exhausted herself doing something fun, than a tidy house and an Anna who had exhausted herself trying to keep a house tidy.
If I hadn’t had such a wonderful carer in my mum who understood that it was far easier, more-restorative, and nicer for me to rest in tidy surroundings and her help in making them so, then perhaps those early years when I learnt to pace might not have gone so well.
So just be careful who you’re comparing yourself to, okay? Each set of circumstances and each case of ME/CFS is different. Pacing is a coping mechanism that only a particular set of circumstances really allows. It’s mis-sold as some attainable fix, if only you try hard enough. It does require a lot of work and discipline. But you also need a huge dollop of Privilege (eg. financial security, physical help, childcare, pet sitters, etc) to even get close to achieving something that actually makes a difference. These ME/CFS and LC ‘clinics’ won’t tell you that.