One of my current favorite shows on television is "The Middle." It's strange and quirky and all the things that typically appeal to my sense of humor. The premise of the show is that they're an extremely normal family living in Indiana. They don't live in a big town or a terribly small one. They're certainly not rich- but they're also not quite poor. Their kids aren't especially fabulous. In all aspects, they live in "The Middle."
While I don't think my life is quite as entertaining as a sitcom for various reasons, I can completely identify with the idea of living in The Middle. When you're chronically ill, you get three types of days: good days, bad days, The Middle.
These are those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days when everything is especially wrong, and there's no way to overcome it. For me, bad days are typically when I can't get my blood pressure to a functional level. These are the days when a joint dislocates, and I can't fix it on my own. These are the days when the chronic illness party has ramped itself up to full volume- and I'm the one paying the price. Bad days are irreconcilable to normal life. The grace of bad days, however, is that I'm typically not expected to act "normal" on those days. If my knee is swollen bigger than my thigh, no one expects me to buy groceries. When I'm blacking out every time I stand, it's fairly understandable that I'm probably not going to do much. While bad days are about as much fun as a flat tire in the rain, they're a part of the sick life that you learn to handle.
Good days are elusive little suckers that seem to come with less and less frequency. Good days typically begin with a night of fewer sleep interruptions than normal. (I've given up hope for a night of completely uninterrupted sleep.) Good days are when all my joints stay where they belong. My heart doesn't act a fool. And, if I'm lucky, I even have some energy. These days are the unicorns of chronic illness existence.
I've had to learn to be a good steward of "good days." At one point, I used all good days to get things done in my house. However, that's not exactly fair to Joe. Now, I try to split good days between responsibilities and fun- because using my good days to enjoy my life is important, too.
This is where life actually happens. I'm typically stuck in the middle of illness and symptom management. These are the days when I'm not sick enough to stay in bed, but I'm also not well enough to fully enjoy what is happening. There have been entire trips with Joe that I was so stuck in the middle that I had no actual memories of the trip afterward. On normal days- days in the middle- joints dislocate; my full body pain is certainly there; my heart races, and I'm nauseous. That's just life in the middle.
These are also the days when you'll see me buying groceries or meeting Joe for lunch. I cook and do laundry and walk my dog when I'm having days in the middle, because that's where the majority of my life exists. Now, I'm not telling you any of this to be a martyr. I'm not trying impress you with my set of symptoms in the least. (Not to mention, they're far from impressive or desirable.) Everyone I know has a situation (an illness, injury, relationship, job) that has a nasty middle that must be overcome. Rather, I'm saying this is what my middle looks like. This is what the day of someone fighting to live their life in spite of an illness looks like. Maybe this will help others to understand why those of us with chronic illness may seem short or distracted sometimes. Maybe this will increase understanding between the chronic illness community and those who don't struggle with illness.
Everyone of us wishes we could have more "good days." Sometimes I would even settle for a bad day if it meant I could stop trying so hard to act "normal." However, I'll settle for The Middle as long as I get to enjoy it with the people I love- even if "enjoying it" is a bit more of an effort than I care to admit.
Peace, love, and health, friends.