Disability talk blog post: The mind/body split, by Elin Williams


As a chronically ill workaholic, I have a slight problem. My mind and my body don’t always cooperate.

One races through the to-do list,  whilst the other demands rest. One produces a new idea just as the other retaliates. One likes to think it’s invincible, whilst the other, well, the other has plenty of evidence in its arsenal to prove otherwise.

I give you The Mind/Body Split.

Ironically, I’m experiencing this conflict as we speak; interrupting what should deservedly be a restful afternoon with intermittent bouts of writing as my mind gravitates towards this idea and all it wants to say about it.

It’s a peculiar divide.

I’d like to think that I have this enduring loyalty to looking after my body, to listening to its cries when things get a little too much. But I have to hold my hands up and say that I’m not always committed to dedicating the care it needs and deserves.

It’s an almost constant battle; the split stretches into a chasm, leaving space for some peculiar emotions to swell. For years, the commitment between my mind and body to look out for each other has been puckered and bruised.

When I’m too weak to do anything, my mind feels guilty for not being productive. When I attempt a small task, my body quivers under the strain.

I’ve always placed unnecessary pressure on myself in terms of my work, my studies, my writing, and doing the best I can…

…Every day unfolds in different directions when it comes to The Mind/Body Split: Sometimes, a splash of common sense exists between them, making it easier to mould the shape of the day into something that will satisfy them both.

But some are harder than others. My ME/CFS symptoms fluctuate from one day to the next, sometimes gripping me from the moment I wake up, whilst, on others, they progress as the hours stretch on. Take the other day, for example: It was early afternoon when a thicker veil of weakness started to cascade over me, alerting me to the fact that it was time for a break, time to stop. But did I?

I did not.

Here is where I’d usually find myself typing carefully constructed explanations, but honestly? It was simply a matter of that newly accepted task being too tantalising to dismiss. It needed to be done, and I knew the worry of completing it would eat away at my energy whilst resting, just as an extra 20 minutes at my desk would.

So I stayed.

You’d think that I’d be quite the pro at navigating this whole ME/CFS experience, having lived with the symptoms in various forms for the best part of the last ten years, but consistent evidence proves that I am very much not. I barely touch intermediate.

It’s this hierarchy that gets me. The way in which both entities fight for superiority: The way I let the thought of productivity erode the precious concept of rest. Or the way in which the layering of symptoms makes it impossible to see a task or an activity through.

Because, my mind doesn’t always take the lead. Sometimes the thoughts are cast in the symptom of brain fog, or my arms are too heavy, too weak, to reach for the laptop.

I’ve become better at accepting these moments, better at submitting to resting when I need to.

But over-exertion is still a constant threat, and I know I need to make more of a conscious effort to diminish its presence…

Read the full article

Black tulip beauty: Elin Williams on life with vision impairment and CFS

Elin’s blog: My blurred world

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