15 May 2014
I forget, some weeks, until my phone reminds me. Oh, yeah, it’s time. Time to take my once-weekly pills, the ones that stave off pain and stiffness and weakness and fatigue—or at least are meant to. So far, they work.
I get 6 out of 7 days to forget. Forget that my immune system has gone crazy. Forget that span of months when I struggled to unbuckle a car seat strap, or cut up an onion, or plod up the stairs. I get to push it all aside and pretend I’m healthy.
And on the seventh day, I remember.
I dutifully take my pills on a Wednesday night, and eat a snack to cushion the medicine, and go to bed.
On Thursday, I wake up and feel fine. About mid-morning—if I’m lucky, it holds off until noon—the fog rolls in, shrouding my mind. The rest of the day, I’m peering through a cloud, thoughts slippery and hard to hold onto, disintegrating into small pieces.
On Thursday, it’s hard to care very much about anything, because fatigue creeps up around me, whispering of warm blankets and soft pillows and the sweetness of sleep. Fatigue is deceptive, though—as lovely as a nap sounds, I know I will regret it when I wake up, foggier and grumpier than before I slept. So I power through—if by “power through” you mean “sit on the couch and stare blankly at the computer screen and try to remember what I’m supposed to be doing.”
On Thursday, I want to cry but mostly can’t. From noontime through bedtime, the tears lurk at the back of my eyes. I used to think it was because I was upset about something. But despair doesn’t generally descend every Thursday at 2 pm and recede on schedule by the morning. Now I’m sure that the meds cause the moods.
Sometimes I think I’m a better parent on Thursdays. It takes so much energy to surface above the fog and fatigue that my voice slows down, becomes less sharp. Everything slows down, really. Hard to get annoyed or angry or anxious when you’re wrapped in cotton batting. Hard to say “no” to a child, too. My sense of urgency dissipates. It’s relaxing, really. Or would be if my to-do list weren’t so long.
On Thursdays, I don’t care about my to-do list. Much.
Some weeks, I feel like I did when I was pregnant—a low-level nausea giving way to hunger, until I eat something. Sometimes eating soothes the stomach, sometimes eating makes it worse. Hard to know which it will be today.
Some weeks, my stomach feels fine and my head pounds. I hate to take even more pills, so I up my caffeine intake—sometimes a double espresso shot works, since I drink coffee so rarely now. Sometimes the headache comes on a Friday, and I question—is it just a headache, from pollen or tension or lack of sleep? Or is it another side effect?
Am I really sick? Or is it just the meds? On a Thursday or Friday, hard to know. And so I ignore the queasiness, the headache, the fatigue. The brain fog makes that easier. I hunker down inside myself, not wanting to complain. I’m bored of complaining.
I take my meds Wednesday night because Thursday holds the least activity. I used to take them on Friday night, but I got tired of ruining my weekends. I resent the loss of my Thursdays, often the only day of the week that’s largely unscheduled. I had been using it as a catch-up day, laundry or phone calls or writing.
I’m writing now. I suppose it counts.
And so I hunker down, and wait for the fog to lift, and tell myself it’s the meds, and mostly believe myself, but behind the ignoring and the waiting is the fear that this time, it won’t go away. That the real me is the confused and foggy one, the one with splintered thoughts, for whom a normal day is an endurance competition.
That the side effects are mere rehearsals for when the meds stop working.