Am I Just Lazy, Or Am I Really That Sick?

This isn’t actually a very easy question to answer.

I have a lot of illnesses at the moment that can interfere with me getting things done, and particularly with anything involving much physical labour. I also have an awful memory for chores, and even chanting my to-do list as I go doesn’t guarantee I won’t forget something.

Apparently depression can affect memory, and it also saps motivation and makes me very tired. Stress and anxiety are distracting, making my mind jump between thought streams, and is mentally exhausting and keeps me up at night. I likely have sleep apnea, and my nose gets easily blocked, so there’s more things affecting my sleep.

So being tired and down and stressed and having no motivation is one reason why I choose not to do something, put it off, or simply forget. I’ve tried to get around this with reminders in my phone, often with exclamation marks and sometimes caps lock. This means I sometimes – like last night – have to cook six portions of a meal at once, because I may not have the energy to cook again for days.

I also have pain and physical limitations that make me avoid certain chores or make them a really bad idea. Lifting heavy things is an obvious one, although things don’t have to be that heavy for them to make my back and knees hurt or feel like they’re being injured. Vacuuming is something people don’t immediately put in this category, but when you’re tall with a bad back and vacuum cleaners seem to be designed for much shorter people, the toll on your back is pretty obvious. Bending, kneeling and crouching also suck. Getting up off the floor is annoying, and has potential for injuries.

On the whole, that category is me taking care of myself. Because I’m the one stuck in this body while it deteriorates.

There’s a grey area of if illness is a reason to not do a chore, however. Or, more accurately, an area where other people believe it to be nothing and me just being lazy, while to me it’s a valid reason. I know my body, I know when I need to let it rest or it’s going to make me feel horrible. Lately this means nausea that might turn to me retching into the laundry sink, or a little bit of a woozy or off feeling that could mean I’ll get lightheaded and dizzy, or start feeling like I’ll collapse. My balance and coordination are often affected, which means bumping into things and maybe dropping things.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to put something off for weeks because I’ve got a bit of a headache, but it does mean having to rest up first and let myself feel better, or take it slow and be careful.

There is, of course, the fact that I am lazy. I don’t like getting up and doing things. Once I get started, it’s hard to make me stop until I’m tired enough or my back has worn out, but the getting going isn’t easy. If I’m warm and comfortable I don’t want to get up, if I’m in the middle of something I don’t want to stop and lose my train of thought. I feel tired a lot, and now and then restless and like I can’t focus. I like to relax, and I often just don’t want to be productive.

There are things that can be mistaken for laziness – I don’t like walking much, or walking up stairs, or carrying things, or clothes shopping (specifically the trying-on part) – that are actually due to pain. When my knees are behaving, I actually go for stairs instead of the escalator (and not just because I have a mild fear of escalators from childhood!), and I like long aimless walks, but if they’re hurting or feeling unstable? Yesterday one lap of Bunnings was too much for my knees: I was limping so far behind I didn’t even see what aisle everyone went down, and by the time I caught up I’d missed half the discussion of what we were actually getting. But I’ll actually enjoy re-organising my room, and get quite picky about where everything goes, because I’m actually equal parts mess-maker-spectacular and death-glaring neat-freak. I’ll just dump things on the floor, or in piles, and I always end up with a pile of ‘but I’m wearing them again’ clothes, but it’s hard for me to not sort my books and DVDs, and now even my medications are sorted.

Long story short: people are complex. I can have legitimate reasons to sit down instead of dragging bookcases about, but it can also be a choice made out of laziness or tiredness or being a bit grumpy. Sometimes I don’t do things I want to or love because of these reasons – believe it or not, but I enjoy putting furniture together (Ikea stuff is the best, I love it), however that doesn’t mean my back or knees won’t make me slow or hesitant. My laziness and memory are things I’m working on, and my back and joints I’m working on too and taking care of. But everyone is different – what’s easy for you may not be easy for me, and pain and tiredness may mean different things, and have different consequences, for different people.

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