I had a friend staying with me for the last two weeks (well - the last four days I've been on my ass with flu - the two weeks before that) as I'd hired them to do some document control work for me. It was -- interesting: of course they're one of my closest friends and we did fun friend things I love doing with them; but the older I get the more I confirm that I don't like living with folks very much. There are some benefits, like when you get a partner who does your dishes when you cook, but -- spending every night in a week hanging out with someone exhausts me so much that by the end, no matter if they're someone incredible, I can't wait for them to go the hell away and leave me the hell alone.
I am a horrible person! \o/
The thing is, this time, I've learnt something very interesting, almost by accident.
The two weeks my friend happened to be here - and coming on-site, for training and introductory work - ended up being two very rough weeks for the site, operationally, and for me, as Operations Manager. Almost every day wore me out - some days I had to go home and take naps before I could even really be coherent. I tried to explain to my friend that this just happened, on rough days, and that I thought it was the infamous "fibro fog" in my head *, and I just needed a break.
But it kept happening, over and over, almost every freaking day while they were here.
Then, one of their last days in my house, I went and took a Vicodin before collapsing on the couch and ordering something brainless. We got a drink apiece, and put on Criminal Minds (which I of course have memorized at this point so brainless really is the key answer here) and when I got up to refill my drink and get some food, I noticed that in the 30-or-so min it took for the Vic to really kick in, I suddenly felt enormously better. I mentioned this recovery to my friend and said, "Huh, I guess all I needed was a break and a pain pill."
They then mentioned that they could tell when I was having the fibro fog problems. They said my voice changed - all the energy dropped out of it; sometimes it slurred - and, my sentences were all out of order, I was using the wrong words in some places. I couldn't stay focused. A couple times I wasn't focusing on driving. They said the difference between normal-me and fog-me was so obvious to an external observer - hugely noticeable.
I was actually kind of floored, and it made me think: because I feel fibro fog all the time, right, but when it hits, but I thought ... I thought it was in my head? I thought I was ... working through it? Hiding it? I didn't think it was that big of a deal. Really, I didn't; so what if I'm a little tired and having some trouble concentrating. That happens to everyone.
Apparently, not really; not really like this, not really at all.
So that's lesson one from the two-week stay: pay more attention to fibro fog, because it is real and you aren't hiding it.
The second step came when I finally made a link between a fibro flareup / fibro fog and what causes it: I am, apparently, hypersensitive to overstimulation. It made everything click - made it all make sense. This particular friend lands high on the stimulation scale - more interaction required, for example, than settling / relaxation - which was obviously contributing to my discomfort; it also makes sense as a portion of the reason I don't like people in my house, even when I don't "have" to entertain them or feed them or care for them: they are still there; they are stimulation. When I am alone, I control my stimulation, and if I need to rewatch Criminal Minds for the three-dozenth time: well, that's pretty low stimulation.
It also explains why the fucking revolving door of my office irritates me so: I do great on days I have mainly to myself and can focus on cranking out one or two things, or on days where there's a big disaster (some stimulation!) but my entire day becomes focused only on solving that one problem. On days where I'm in my office trying to plug through my responsibilities and someone different comes in every 15 minutes ** with a new question, or problem, or even just update on something that could have waited, or whatever ... that's overstimulation kicking in.
It's why days of my job are so hard on me when I feel like they maybe shouldn't be. It's why cons always exhaust me (to the point where, while I love seeing my friends, I'm not sure they're much worth the brain fog). It's why travel is so distasteful. It's why weekends with my family feel like chores even as I enjoy them: I am - my fibro is - sensitive to overstimulation.
I've been testing and applying this finding since I realized it, in small ways, and I'm actually hoping that it's the first step in finding the work/health balance point I so desperately need to find.
SO, yeah. I'm going to be focusing on reducing stimulation at work, for the next few weeks, to see if that helps me bring any more of my energy back home. Door closed for part of every day. Soothing music, maybe. Reduce clutter in my office. And - if I start feeling fibro fog coming on - it's time to go home. I do not need anyone at work seeing me like that anymore. Apparently my sentences barely make sense.
**: I have actually gathered data on this. My average over a 40-hr week is one interruption every 17 minutes.