Let me be clear: I was not okay with the turn my health had taken. I was exhausted, miserable, and demoralized. I was also resigned. The severity of my disability has fluctuated over time; I'd had multiple surgeries--and a couple of post-op infections; I had mild, but chronic, depression and my meds needed adjustment; my back still hurt, which had me on pain meds. All of this is to say, I had excuses. They're all valid, as is my most recent explanation--after my last surgery in November, we discovered I'd become pretty severely anemic. No one knows when it happened, thanks to a mix-up regarding my pre-op labs prior to my past three surgeries. Since I began treating that, and got my other meds fixed, I've felt much better. None of these excuses explain my resignation. I accepted the situation as my new normal--even after a period of sickness caused by running out of my anti-depressants after which I told myself to never accept sudden new symptoms as "normal."
The fatigue wasn't new, after all. I've always had less stamina than most people. Always needed more sleep. Always had some insomnia. But during this period, I exaggerated my past issues in my mind. Really, if they had been anywhere near as severe, I would not have been able to make it through grad school. On the Panera day, I told myself that of course I got tired walking, I wasn't doing much of it. Never mind that in the past I could go from zero-to-trapsing around a new city in a couple of days. It would cause me to sleep later the next day, sure, but not to be afraid I'd pass out within the next three minutes. That was not a thing I should have accepted. Inability to function to that degree was not an okay thing. And even if it had been something untreatable, a new facet to my condition, I should have questioned it more. I know that on this side. Will I know that if my iron levels drop again?
I can only hope so.
This post doesn't have a firm message of: this is what I learned, or this is what you can do, except that you should never accept being miserable as a "new normal." Something is causing that misery, be it physical, mental, or circumstantial, and you are allowed to fight like hell to determine and eliminate that thing. It may take time. It may not be something you can change--but at least you can identify it. That's step one in making things better.
And you don't have to do it alone. If you have a good day, tell a friend Hey, if I try to pretend a bad day is the best things can get, remind me of this. If you haven't had a good day in a long time, hold up one from your past as an example. You may not be able to get to that place again, but it doesn't mean you can't get close. Every time you think something is normal, ask this question: But can it be better?
It's okay if the answer is no. But if it's yes, then keep asking questions. That may be all you can do, but hope is so much better than resignation.