Recovering from Christmas – with brain fog

Behind – again – still

When you have CFS, life spits things at you on a regular basis, and you do the best you can to drink from the firehose – and fail continuously.

That’s just the way it is – and there isn’t much you can do about it.

The list of broken promises to myself – and broken implied promises to others – merely gets longer every day.

I don’t STOP making plans, and promises to myself – it is human to constantly monitor oneself and one’s surroundings and to be alert for ways to modify what is wrong and improve ‘things’ – but I get further behind each day from where I might have been.

Holidays stress everyone’s coping capacity

People with CFS already live on the edge: it doesn’t take much to nudge us over. It is sad that even joyous occasions, such as celebrating the birth of Our Lord, overstress the coping systems to the point of making us non-functional – again – but that is the reality of it. Holidays stress everyone else, too – which also means they have less available psychic energy for dealing with us and helping us, and instead have a tendency to wish we would just stop being sick, for once, and buck up and help.

So the implicit feelings of low self-worth are aggravated by the extra stress of the season on OTHER people.

It is easy to get depressed at this, much harder to be patient with ourselves and to see it as inevitable but yet somehow survivable – but if we live to see another year, we will know that we survived merely by enduring.

Even normal well people wish they had handled the holidays better – and we are not normal and well.

Which is why the phrase, ‘This too shall pass,’ can be so comforting.

Is it worth it?

Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t give up a single one of the good things that somehow managed to happen. And I am immensely grateful to my husband and children for a marvelous Christmas. It would have made things so much easier not to try, but I didn’t consider it for a second.

I did, however, fail all over the place:

We didn’t end up getting the tree set up.

For the first time ever, I had no real presents – for anyone.

I couldn’t bring myself to do even minimum cleaning until it was really too late – because the thought of doing it, having normal life mess it up, and then having to do it again, was overwhelming.

And then the thought that a new person in our lives would see my mess drove me into at least doing SOME cleaning – and resulted, thank you very much, in a much cleaner house than I have had the energy to produce in a long time – which will be my present to myself, and some of which will actually last longer than the Christmas-New Year week. Not much, but some.

The things that matter

It is as if my mind conserved what energy it could so that I could put it into the things that really matter: friends, family, the religious holiday.

I made the effort – and sang in the choir. With my daughter and our new friend. I will have that memory forever – the chapel at Princeton is one of the most beautiful places in our area, and it is a privilege and a joy to belong to it.

Our Christmas cookies were made post Christmas – to have something tasty to take to the grandparents. They were a hoot to make, and I gave myself up to enjoying to horrible sugar excess without too much guilt: there was nothing there in my energy dispenser to help me resist, so I didn’t. And I’m not sorry – though I’m starting immediately to handle the consequences to my poor sugar-addled body. I don’t care – it was amazing fun and good and… RIGHT.

We’re all in the same aging boat

I admit to being a year older than last year. It takes its toll (I horrified myself this morning by finding an “it’s” (in something I wrote yesterday) when I meant the possessive – that happens when I’m too tired!).

I’m hoping for a bit of a renaissance as we finish dealing with the realities of husband’s retirement process (the horror! the paperwork! the institutional stupidity!), but the net trend is always down hill. And I felt it more this year than on previous ones where I managed to kick into a higher gear during the holidays.

So be it – and part of it is that the writing is going well, and that is actually getting some of my precious daily energy.

I find that age is bringing a bit of wisdom with it: I am not waiting for New Year’s resolutions to ‘start the diet’ again. I enjoyed the cookies, but got up this morning ready to resume proper eating – the psychological stress of ‘why can’t I eat whatever I want all the time’ seems to be muted from previous years. There is no feeling of guilt – another first – but only an acknowledgement that indeed I can’t eat that way all the time – and that I don’t really want to.

There is a growing sense of priorities: I’m actually doing the things I want to do, and doing them first, and then not getting the feeling I used to get at night that I’ve wasted another day of my life.

Adjusting – and happiness

I discovered the vitamin B1 effect works for me – and I get a small boost of energy from it. I’m spending it carefully: the extra functionality goes directly into writing, first, and then into ‘stuff which must be done.’

I think of Flannery O’Connor, dying at 39 of the complications of lupus – and I’m grateful that I’ve had far more than she had – career, children, homeschooling – and that I’m still able to write now. I’m promising myself not to waste it.

I’m grateful that new work habits mean that when I get up I know that I can sit down at my computer, block the internet, and have flow begin to happen within the hour of me starting to write about writing, so I can move to actually producing new words of fiction so much better than even a year ago.

And even more grateful that it didn’t somehow just happen, but that I figured out how to make it happen, for and by myself (acknowledging here all the amazing advice available online and in books from other writers, most especially the indie ones I aim to emulate).

I took a step back: I have enjoyed the ability to do the asanas in a yoga class which went from beginning to moderate to advanced over the space of two years, but I am putting myself back in the beginner class because the amazing things (splits, head- and handstands) have become harder to do – I’m overdoing it, I admit it, and I’m going to regroup and go back to basics. This is not a blow – my ego is okay with it. Now I need to focus on the continuing inability to stand on one leg for any length of time, and do the exercises which may still result in me being able to walk with a more normal gait: back to basics, do the work at the support level instead of railing against the lack of progress.

2013 has been a year of amazing firsts – for someone who is slowly continuing to fall apart. By blogging about so much, I am seeing more clearly both about my abilities and my disabilities.

Post-Christmas sugar philosophy? I hope it’s a lot more than that, and that 2014 is just as amazing – because I aim to self-publish in September.

Happy New Year – and have a happy life.



2 thoughts on “Recovering from Christmas – with brain fog

  1. juicypurplepen

    Loved your post. Get yourself and family someone who can clean your house for you I have someone every other week. Yes it is an expense in a house that is already burden by medical expenses but it is such a boost to have a clean house and be able to not feel so much about not cleaning I feel like it is a medical necessity.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I know – you’re right.

      I used to have someone but she had to stop, and the training of a new person requires some time and energy, so I haven’t done it yet. Plus I need a thorough dejunking before some areas can be properly cleaned – I’m in the slow process of doing that.

      I like you labeling it a ‘medical necessity’ because it really is. We can even afford it – but the entire process of getting it up and running will be my problem and my fault, so I have been postponing truly solving the problem.

      Thanks for the reminder.



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