Playing Tennis and Even Squash

Time for a fitness update: for the last couple of months I’ve been having tennis lessons and playing regularly during the week. This means I can play for a couple of hours at a time without feeling exhausted. In fact, I feel pretty good after a game. One of the guys from tennis even invited me to join him in a game of squash, so last weekend I played squash for about an hour and a half too. Against two guys about 15 years younger than me. Their game was more strategic than mine, meaning that I spent a lot of time running all over the court. One of the guys remarked that I “had more stamina than both of them combined”. So all that morning exercise must really be helping.

I’ve also been going to the beach to go bodyboarding every day that I can, which tends to work out at about once a week. The weather is getting too cold now though, so I doubt I’ll be doing much more bodyboarding for the forseeable future.

When I’m not out playing tennis or bodyboarding, I’m often playing my drums or going cycling. So yeah, I’m pretty goddam fit now. Probably more fit than the average 45 year old.

That’s the good news. Of course there’s bad news too though; well, no bad than before but just not a whole heap better. I still have a tense feeling in my head most of the time, and feel anxious a lot… to the point where it becomes debilitating.

I’ve noticed during exercise that I’ll often suddenly feel kind of nauseous and start throwing up; but I’m not vomiting anything from my stomach. It’s all coming from my head. And it’s not like I’ve over-exerted myself when this happens; it seems to be just the movement of tension in my head and body that does it. The other day I felt really tense in my teeth, and found myself heaving while cleaning my teeth. Oddly enough I’d just had lunch yet nothing from my stomach came up. It’s like the nausea I used to feel when I’d get really bad migraines way before I had CFS; after throwing up the tension releases and the pain would subside. Never heard anyone else talk about this before. I wonder if it’s related to some kind of trauma release.

I wake up feeling pretty good these days; not as good as I feel in my dreams, but reasonably OK. Then at about 4pm it’s crash time; for some reason I just feel wretched around then: very anxious and tense more than physically tired, but I almost always feel like I need to just go and lie down.

I recall Leigh Hatcher talking about this in his book I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell… which, in a freaky coincidence, I read purely out of interest about a year before falling ill myself. But while he put it down to his body running out of fuel, I reckon it’s some sort of emotional/nervous/body rhythm thing. It seems to happen every day regardless of what I eat; but it doesn’t tend to happen if I’m around people I like doing something I find very engaging. Or perhaps I just don’t notice it then.

Yesterday it hit me particularly badly. I went to bed about 4pm and got up again feeling relatively OK around 7pm. Problem is, this really messes with my lifestyle. Perhaps I should just quit my whining given that I now have a relatively functional 12 hours of waking life each day, but last night I just lay on the couch watching TV thinking: “I’m fucked… I really am fucked”.

Not to get too philosophical about it or anything… no bugger that, I think I will: look, we’re all fucked anyway. Eventually we all die. Doesn’t matter if you have CFS/ME/Rabies/Whatever-your-chosen-form-of-suffering. The Buddhists are right: all living things suffer. It’s not meant to be a depressing realization but a compassion-inducing one. Everyone is struggling with something they wish would just hurry up and fuck the hell out of their lives. Mine just happens to be this, and I get all upset and annoyed when I think about the handbrake it puts on my potential future. So I try to live in the moment instead.

I promise to stop whining soon. My tennis coach has some weird physical and mental handicap like cerebral palsy or something, and he seems pretty happy. We’re both big fans of Anchorman, so we walk around joking about our glass cases of emotion. I’ve never seen anyone serve the way he does, with his back arched all over the place. It’s amazing he can get the damn thing over the net. He can sure hit the ball though!

I definitely suffer more when I dwell on how much I’m suffering. I don’t suffer when I’m bodyboarding and some huge wave comes up to scare the bejesus out of me; I’m too busy trying not to drown. Or when I’m engrossed in thrashing some tennis partner. Or playing drums. But then, it’s not even 2pm yet so I’m still in a relatively functional frame of mind. Ask me again in a few hours.

I’m also really bored shitless living where I’m living. I want to move closer to the beach for next summer. In order to do that, I’ll need an income of some sort. Becoming a famous comedian is unlikely to happen given that I’m wiped out in the evening when gigs are on, and I’ve lost my sense of humour lately anyway. I might be able to get some acting work… and like that’s not competitive or anything. There’s always engineering to go back to if I’m starving, but solving technical problems doesn’t grab me any more. Something is bound to come up… and if not, I’ll just do the deep breathing thing. Anxious… argh!

I’ve been trying to do that gratitude thing lately too, where you think of all the good things you’ve got going for you instead of the bad shit that’s going down. So I’m grateful for you reading this post, and even more grateful if you’d leave a comment so I don’t feel so goddam lonely here blogging away by myself.

Radio Program on Chronic Fatigue

Interesting program on local Sydney ABC radio this evening about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. One of the guests was former sufferer Leigh Hatcher. I didn’t learn a whole lot I didn’t previously know, but I wasn’t aware of Leigh’s CFS website, nor his forum for CFS sufferers.

In a bizarre quirk of fate, I listened to the audio version of Leigh’s book I’m Not Crazy I’m Just a Little Unwell while working out at the gym about 6 months before I succumbed to the illness. I had no particular interest in CFS at the time and felt absolutely fine myself, but there was a limited range of audio books available to borrow at my local library and I thought his story sounded interesting.

I now know way, way more about CFS than I ever wanted, and although I don’t spend much time learning more about the condition nowadays, it was interesting to hear the discussion on the radio. The doctor they interviewed talked quite a bit about immune system problems and food intolerances. I never noticed any change in my condition based on changes in my diet personally, but I guess it works for some people. The only thing that seems to work for me is resting and dealing with the emotional issues the illness (and life in general) throws up.

I seem to have the flu at the moment. It’s like my normal symptoms only a bit worse, but I can tell it’s different because the phlegm from my nose is chunky and browny-yellow, instead of the usual clear goop. And when I blow my nose, I’m blowing out blood. I guess I should have put a gross-out spoiler warning on this paragraph eh.

I figure when my flu goes I’ll be back to 60% or so, which is enough to pursue my writing/speaking career. To that end I’ve been spending a lot of time rebuilding my home website. I find if I’m doing something productive while I’m feeling ill, it’s a nice distraction and I get to move forward in life a bit. This is a bit of a change from my previous strategy of just resting passively while waiting to recover.

I’m also preparing for my Toastmasters club’s humorous speech contest on Wednesday night. Wish me luck!