There is a point with this illness where one realizes one should not at all be driving. Unfortunately, one often realizes this in the middle of a road somewhere going very, very fast.
I haven’t driven a car since March or April of last year.
I can remember what I believe to be one of the last times I drove more than a tiny distance (it may have been the very last time, but I can’t recall for sure and don’t want to inadvertently misrepresent myself by making false claims. …Because everything on the internet is true). It’s a difficult thing to sum up “brain fog” for people who have never experienced it, and the mild form and intense form vary greatly in their effects. Let’s just say that my ability to multitask was severely limited, holding multiple pieces of information in my head at one time was nearly impossible, and that my mind now had a tendency to skip over certain things that would once have been obvious or cut out pieces of basic information once it got too overworked. I think it chooses to call this “increased efficiency.” I choose to call it “why the fuck am I holding a carrot and empty sunglass frames?”
You can see how this would be great for driving.
Anyway, I was driving along on my way to a medical appointment, on a street where the posted speed limit was 80km/hr (so I was going exactly 80.0 km/hr. Everything on the internet is true). I was low on gas, and had almost passed the gas station when I remembered that I was supposed to stop. But I hadn’t quite passed it. So I turned the car into the driveway.
…Without realizing that I would have had to slow the car down first.
I can remember the giant black skid marks I left as I careened around that corner, barely in control of the car. I remember the horrible, horrible screeching noise the tires made on the pavement. I remember feeling as if a hundred eyes must be looking at my car in disbelief. It was way beyond “slow down, you douchebag” and well into the territory of “what the fuck is wrong with that person are they having a seizure I think they must be. …Or they’re seven.” I pulled over in the gas station parking lot in shock, with my hands shaking terribly, wanting to disappear into the seat so that nobody would be tempted to interact with me, replaying over and over in my head that I really did just screech into that driveway at [exactly 80 km/hr and not a km faster] and thanking God and chance and anything else up there that there hadn’t been any more serious consequences and that I managed to successfully hit the open driveway rather than anything beside it. It happened completely out of nowhere. It was so fast. And so totally crazy. You get so used to being able to process split second information that you just never consider that ability might not be there when you need it. Completely surreal.
That is the day that I realized I should not drive anymore.
I did drive again, mind you, and if it wasn’t a long trip, it definitely also stands out in memory.
I used to take long walks around my neighbourhood in the time that I was unable to work, but still not yet housebound. Eventually my symptoms got so bad that I wasn’t able to walk that far anymore, and instead I would just walk to my mailbox at the end of our street.
To fully understand this story, I have to interject here that I love getting the mail. LOVE it. Even when what I have reason to expect is not exciting. Even when I do not have reason to expect anything at all. It’s like Christmas every morning, filled with vast and uncharted possibilities and the wonder of discovery. Approaching that box is like Schrodinger’s paradox, except with the potential of postal surprises and fewer dead cats.
My husband thinks I’m possibly a little bit crazy in this. I just love surprises. Even the surprise of nothing at all. But that man can pick up a package that is clearly an unknown birthday gift, not tear it apart in the post office parking lot, bring it all the way home, and then leave it untouched on the dining room table for days. …Or at least, I suspect that is the case. After an hour or two, my own curiosity-by-proxy becomes so overwhelming that I end up hounding him into opening it on the spot. Point being, he may or may not be human.
This is the same reason I never ever let the phone go to the answering machine if I can help it. I will engage in some serious triathlete-worthy gymnastics to get to a phone in time if it happens to ring at an inopportune moment. True, the telemarketing people selling windows and doors have called here at this time every night for the last three weeks in a row. …But what if it’s something special??? What if it’s the Prime Minister, or a marching band, or people selling shutters and vents?
At any rate, checking the mail is a great source of joy in my life.
Eventually the decline of my physical functioning left me with the harsh reality that I was just not well enough to walk even to the mailbox anymore. I had tried in previous weeks, and I had failed, struggling to get back home with leg muscles that were no longer responding and breathing like I had only one lung and a large load of coal on my back (and with some pretty awful payback the next days). This was at the stage where I was just starting to not really be able to get out of a horizontal position much. But I love checking the mail. And as I recall this particular day, I was even expecting a package. A package! Full of totally unexciting things! Things that could have been in my mailbox at that very moment.
I had decided that I could not get the package. Clearly, I could not get the package. But it was right there… But I could not get the package.
And then I looked at my car.
And I looked at the mailbox.
And I looked at my car.
And I thought, okay, I have reached an all time low. But I am not above that. I am totally going to get in my car and drive it the embarrassingly short distance to the end of this street, and check my mail.
And so I got in my car, and I drove it the embarrassingly short distance to the end of my street, and I checked my mail. And I was partly triumphant, but mostly just really not feeling well.
I will remember the drive back forever, probably. I can vividly recall being halfway down the street. I knew with no doubt at all at this point that trying to sit upright that long had been a Truly Terrible Idea, and I had this litany going over and over in my head while I drove, “Please don’t pass out. Please don’t pass out. Please don’t pass out,” as I watched my house getting (so slowly!) closer, with my head getting hazier and hazier and my vision getting foggy, and prayed by some miracle that I would be able to make it all the way back.
I remember it going through my head how ridiculous it would seem when people found me, metres away from my driveway, passed out in my car with a triumphant wad of junk mail on the seat beside me. I remember hoping that it wouldn’t take until after work hours for somebody to realize I was there since it was still only early afternoon, and hoping that I would be able to fall sort of flat if I did lose consciousness, since staying propped up seemed like it was likely to be detrimental. I wondered if my husband would be worried when he called me after work and nobody answered (because I always get the phone).
I did make it home, but barely. And I lay stranded on the floor of my entry way for a very long time, face to the floor mat, before I was able to get myself up the half flight of stairs that leads into the rest of our house.
I have not driven since. We sold my car later that year.
As I recall it now, the delivery I was expecting hadn’t even arrived yet, so there were no packages for me to pick up that day. But there will be in the future. And if determination can do anything, then someday I will be well enough again to get them myself.
Even if some of them are filled with compression stockings.
Everything on the internet is true.
Tags: (compression stockings can help a bit to prevent that kind of fainting), hope, I'm sure there is a Curiosity killed the cat joke in there somewhere, ME/CFS, myalgic encephalomyelitis, seriously disturbing car surprises, you should see what I do when someone phones while I'm in the bathroom. ...No...you shouldn't.