When I was running ultramarathon races, I used to pride myself on my ability to leave some gas in the tank and finish the race on a high. When I was working with trauma clients, I used to love learning with them how to contain emotions, build confidence, and each day take on a little more.
People have sometimes asked me why I do not ask the questions they ask about my life. They seem obvious enough – after all, the media has asked them many times.
I have always answered that uncertainty does not bother me. I think the real answer might have something more to do with pacing.
I, like anybody else, can only take so much. As much as I would like to believe that I am strong enough to face anything, I have my limits.
Just a few days ago, I asked my husband about that night I had a seizure. I asked questions I had not asked before. What did I say? How long did it take before I was able to answer the question, “What is your name?” How did I act toward you? Did I really not know who you were?
The answers were too much. I did not sleep much that night and the next day had trouble again. My words became jumbled many times. More than once, it took me several minutes to say what I wanted to say. My husband had to repeat a question three times before I understood him. I was dizzy for much of the day, and the headaches that had plagued me for the first week after I was released from the hospital returned.
Pacing does not come with instructions. It is more of a trial and error sort of thing. Because I had no idea where the questions would lead, I could not have known how I would respond. I could not have known that the thought of myself unable to say my own name, recognize my husband, or much worse, treat him like an intruder when he was trying to help me, would lead to fears related to my future ability to take care of myself. Yet, I could not seem to stop asking myself, What if this is a sign of early dementia? What if you are losing it? What if this happens and no one is around to help you, or you no longer recognize the ones you love?
I needed a strategy. Ruminating thoughts, after all, are very hard to stop. I decided to reframe my experience instead.
I have been doing too much for too long. My experience was a sign that I had not paced myself correctly. My seizures were like what my computer does when too many windows are open. It reboots itself and starts again with a clean slate.
We do not always know what we step into, or how we will feel when we get there. Life does not prepare us that way. We only learn by going through, not around.
I do believe that I will be able to ask these questions again. However, I will need to pace myself.