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

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

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pride in Small Accomplishments (The Black Ink on My Balance Sheet)

The other day, my wife came down with a moderate cold or flu.  Because it wasn't a severe illness, she went to work anyway.  Midway through the day, I received a text from her that said, "I have a new found respect for what you do.  Even simple tasks are tough when you're sick."

My wife's text validated a vague attitude I'd fostered since getting sick last year:  a sense of satisfaction in accomplishing tasks that I previously took for granted -- tasks like washing the dishes, making the bed, pulling a few weeds, going to work, or changing a diaper.  Fifteen months ago, these things were just mundane chores.  They barely registered on the satisfaction scale.  But somehow the addition of a little adversity in the form of ME/CFS rendered them 10 times more satisfactory.

I'm not sure exactly why these simple tasks bring more satisfaction, but I have a couple theories.  The simple explanation is that the amount of satisfaction in completing a task is proportional to its difficulty.  Since ME/CFS makes nearly any task more difficult, it also makes nearly every task more gratifying.  But I think there's more to it than that.  Perhaps it has something to do with the pleasure of defiance.  ME/CFS comes into your life and tries to dictate every aspect of it: what you can do, when you can do it, and for how long.  To the extent one can do so safely, it just feels good to fight back and regain some measure of control.

As someone who's often trying to find a the positives among ME/CFS' many negatives, I count this new sense of satisfaction as a significant offset.  Like most of the positives I find, it won't fully offset the negative, but it brings me partway back to whole.  If I were to assign a score to to it, I might say that the increased difficulty carries a score of -10 points, but the increased satisfaction gives +6 points back.  In the same way, I try to think of the other effects of ME/CFS on my life in terms of their net effect.  There's a tendency sometimes to only focus on the negative side of the balance sheet because it's often the most obvious.  I'm finding that with more time to reflect, the positives gradually materialize.  And when the positives and negatives are balanced out, the net effect of ME/CFS isn't as bad as I'd feared, say, 7 or 8 months ago.

A key caveat here is that, in trying to accomplish whatever I can with ME/CFS, I have to make sure I'm not hindering recovery.  There's no satisfaction in damaging my health, and admittedly, I'm still struggling to pinpoint where my crash threshhold is -- something I don't think I'll ever nail down perfectly.



  1. I actually wonder if a positive attitude is one of the symptoms of this illness. I mean, this illness is HORRIBLE, yet I retain a postive, hopeful attitude as default.

    1. Ha! Funny observation, Greyson. I only wish a positive attitude were a symptoms for all my PWME friends. I know a few of them who are really struggling with depression issues due to the effects of ME/CFS on their lives. Sometimes it falls to us to try to cheer them up!

      Glad to know you're a fellow optimist.