Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Avoiding crashes: like avoiding hangovers

There was a time in my twenties when I found myself making one particular mistake over and over:  About three or four times a year, I would wake up with what felt like the world's worst hangover -- the kind of hangover where every atom in your body wants to purge itself simultaneously.  Each time, I would ask myself, "how did I possibly I let this happen...again?"  Then I would promise myself: that was the last time!

Inevitably, I would let it happen again.  

Then, one day, I heard a radio program discussing a psychological study about why people repeat their mistakes in spite of themselves.  I don't remember the conclusion of the study, but it got me thinking about how foolish it was that I continued to make the same mistake repeatedly.  I finally resolved to do something about it...something more than vague resolutions.  

I came to the conclusion that my hazy but well-meaning intentions were completely insufficient.   They were insufficient because they relied on me making a judgment call ("should I have another drink?") based on how I was feeling at the time of the decision.  This, of course, was an awful predictor of how I would feel the next morning.  What I needed was to take the decision out of the hands of the person who had repeatedly bungled it (the 11:00-p.m.-on-a-Saturday-night Patrick), and put it in the hands of a different Patrick.  

On the other hand, I didn't want to leave the decision to hungover-Patrick either, because that Patrick would choose to never drink again.  I needed a moderate Patrick; a Wednesday-at-noon Patrick to make a decision by which we would all abide.

Now, the only way that Wednesday-at-noon Patrick could hope to have any control whatsoever over Saturday-at-11:00 Patrick was to set specific, quantifiable rules.   Vague admonishments like "don't drink too much," had already failed.   So I established two simple rules: (1) no more hard alcohol--stick to beer and wine, and (2) no more than "x" drinks in a night.  Period.  (The value of "x" is private.  Sorry.)

For the most part, this stratagem worked, and I was able to avoid hangovers for years and years, while still enjoying myself socially.

By now, I'm sure you've predicted where I'm going with this.

I've recently realized that I need to apply the same strategy to ME/CFS pacing.  If I leave my daily planning up to the Patrick-who's-feeling-pretty-good, that Patrick will always enthusiastically dive into a few too many activities, leading to the inevitable crash.  I've recognized this pattern emerging once again, and I'm determined to squelch it more quickly than I did the hangover problem.

So now, I have one simple rule: One errand per day, maximum.  No exceptions.  No matter how good I'm feeling on any particular day, I no longer trust that feeling any more than I trust Saturday-night Patrick.  

So far, I've only employed this strategy for a week, but I think it may be working.  In the mean time, I'm off to post this analogy, in reverse, on a blog for alcoholics.

I kid. 


  1. Sounds like a good plan! Early on in my illness, I read about proactive rest, and that has helped me a lot. My low time of day is always afternoons, so for the past 7-8 years, I have taken a nap after lunch EVERY day - no exceptions, no matter how I am feeling at that moment. It has helped a lot, and because it is a habit now, I have no problem falling asleep and getting good solid rest in the afternoon. This is what gets me through the second half of the day!

    I have some other solid rules, too, based on hard experience - for instance, I can take a walk OR get groceries but NEVER on the same day!


    Live with CFS

  2. Patrick, I love this analogy! (missmilki on Healkick)

    1. Thanks Miriam. See you around on HealKick :)