I’m coming out of a period of hibernation. Not literal hibernation, as I recently traveled with my kids to Florida, but a mental hibernation.
I got sick a couple months ago and the more time that passes, the more I’m sure it was some sort of autoimmune flare up rather than a virus. First and foremost, no one else got what I had, but also, I’ve never fully recovered, which makes me think this is my new normal in my health journey.
Last winter I was killing it. I was doing super challenging workout classes (in my home of course) and then organizing drawers and hauling stuff to donation centers and scrubbing grout and making dinner and staying up late reading and doing it all over again. In about March I couldn’t handle the same workout classes, and shifted to low impact stuff because of my joints and also because I didn’t have the energy to go full out for any amount of time. Soon that also became too much. I did these classes where your output is measured in levels one through seven, with seven being something you can only maintain for about twenty seconds before fading. I realized not only was I out of level seven stores, but also six and five. I could spin my legs for a bit, but any high intensity (or even moderate some days) made me feel like death.
I mentioned this to my doctor who ran tests and discovered my B12 level was pitiful so we restarted injections once a month (Crohn’s patients have trouble absorbing B12, so even though I took a multivitamin daily, it wasn’t sticking). I really hoped that would help but then I had this rock-bottom crash and couldn’t keep my eyes open or eat anything for about three days, with recovery similar to spending a week in the hospital. I felt like I had to learn to walk again, and things are still not quite right.
We’ve had visitors and while I managed to seem relatively normal while they were here, I crashed after they left. Too tired to clean (!!!), or cook, or eat, and I didn’t want to see any people I didn’t absolutely have to. I went to Target on a good day but left exhausted because every single person in the store greeted me and asked if I needed help, which forced me to respond, and y’all, it felt like a crush of paparazzi around Kim Kardashian to my tender nerves. I have worked in retail and remember how much trouble we’d be in if someone made it to the back of the store without being thoroughly welcomed, but is there some sort of sign I can wear to fend these people off? Please don’t interact with me, I’m tapped out. Also, I come here all the time and know where literally every item is stocked.
I flew with the kids to my parents’ house in Florida for their fall break and they were absolute champs. The flights were on time, no bathroom emergencies with three small bladders and one that’s been kicked around by three babies, but there were so many people and I slept for twelve hours the night we arrived (bless my parents for parenting my children during my recuperation). Mom would ask if I wanted to go for a walk on the beach and I would repeatedly decline, because I just didn’t have the excess energy. Where nine months ago I would do HIIT on the bike mixed with strength for forty-five minutes and then take the rest of the day with the same level of energy, today if I go for a walk I’m done for the day (and so are my knees and ankles for that matter).
My parents are extremely active for any age group, but for grandparents they are machines. Hours of pickleball followed by a workout class or bike ride followed by swimming and then a walk to the beach for sunset. I am thirty-five and some days I only have enough fuel to get me through the parts of the day that are absolutely necessary. When I try to recover from overstimulation or lots of activity, I end up curled up on the couch staring because TV is just…too much. Please, don’t talk at me, the thinking is making me tired. I love a BBC nature program with pretty footage and minimal voiceover or the fireplace program on Netflix.
The good thing about a vacation at my parents’ house is they are very hands-on, and the kids adore them. They tiptoe past my bedroom door and sneak downstairs to snuggle with Nana and Baba when they wake up because I would insist they lay in bed or play in their rooms until a more appropriate hour. My parents feed and entertain the kids until I stumble downstairs mumbling “coffee…coffee…” and they do most of the mental heavy lifting re: plans for the day, a restaurant with outdoor seating and safe options for allergies, running to the store to get the waffles the kids like and more sunscreen, etc etc etc. The mental stuff that weighs down parents when we’re at home without the extra hands and brain space.
And listen, no shade to El Paso (where this is actually no shade) but visiting somewhere lush and green feels good on my eyes, like they’re getting a massage. It’s amazing to see so many plants that are deep emerald instead of greenish-brown. It should be noted that this is our greenest season in the desert, when it actually rains, and still, our first reaction upon visiting Florida or Wisconsin is always, “it’s so green here!” I love the desert and loathe humidity, so I don’t foresee a time when I’d prefer to live full time in Florida (hurricanes! gators! mosquitoes! Florida man!) but it certainly is nice to visit. As long as I can sleep for twelve house when I get back.