This week has been difficult.

Each day of the week save alternate Saturdays and Sundays I got to a different treatment.  Acupuncture, massage, Pilates, the chiropractor, and now also personal training (for glute and leg strength to help stabilize my core and back).  It’s completely exhausting, and it makes me feel pressured for time just about consistently.  I commute to work, am there for 8.5 hours, commute to treatment, get my treatment, and then commute home.  Most days I am out of the house for a full 12 hours.

I have found that working full time is the biggest source of this exhaustion, which makes sense looking at the duration of each day at work.  However, I find that it’s the emotional effort that takes its toll the most.

I have to make sure I’m out of the office right at 4:00 in order to get to whichever practitioner I’m seeing that day before rush hour traffic is too heavy.  I have to plan my little hourly walks in order to prevent more-than-usual back pain later in the day or week.  I have to consistently be the odd one out who is eating her packed lunches while everyone else noshes on birthday cake, pizza, or potlucks.  I attempt to share my joy in perfecting a new recipe only to get strange looks because I guess I am now that girl.  I have hardly any social life, as my appointments take up the bulk of my schedule outside of work, so I make a rather dull conversationalist.  It’s lonely and frustrating.

I was less aware of this when I was in college and at university.  I suppose I could hide it better.  Going from class to class, my day was broken up.  If I couldn’t take the stairs that day (I had knee issues in college, and my kneecaps could pop out of place randomly causing extreme shooting pain), no one took notice.  Any arrangements I’d made with the Disability Services Office and my professors were private.  I could take pain medications without feeling on display–what college student or researcher doesn’t pop a Tylenol once in a while?  It was no matter that I was living in the one-story dorm on campus, as it was for upperclassmen only, and I was friends with most of the others who chose its substance-free environment.

And as a side note, who isn’t a little different in some way as a college student?  Those who mattered to me (and who still do) were the ones who loved Harry PotterDoctor Who, and Latin, and those are the people I was around more than anyone else.  If they noticed, they didn’t care, and if they didn’t it was thanks to the fact they weren’t next to me 8 hours a day.  My tribe didn’t ever make me feel out-of-place.

My tribe these days is filled with my coworkers.  While some of them are amazing and supportive, the rest are cordial but not close.  Any mention of anything wrong with me or in my life–anything different–is looked down on and avoided by others if possible.  It doesn’t mean I don’t see the eye rolls or the vacant expressions when I have to request fruit at the ice cream social or not take on extra work in order to make sure I’m out of the office for an appointment.

Working with a chronic condition takes so much more than just those 8 hours.  I haven’t mastered it yet, and I’m looking forward to a day that is simply routine instead of a physical and emotional struggle each and every minute.


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