Watching Insight a few nights ago, the show featured athletes debating the topic of endurance racing, and a term stuck in my head. ‘The perception of effort’ was described as the state of mind people can perceive whilst attempting something they think is beyond their physical limits. They develop a phase in their thinking where a limiting factor to their effort becomes not the limitations of the body but more so the mind where they believe they are no longer able to continue.
And it got me to thinking, if the perception of effort is a real thing what does this mean for chronic illness? I noticed when I was really sick that I didn’t understand any longer what my body was telling me. I didn’t understand why I was tired when I was doing things no differently from before. I remember so clearly been confused by the tiredness that was overwhelming my body; the heaviness in my arms when I was driving to work and the feeling of a weight on me when I woke up. How could this possibly be just a perception of effort? I want to reject this idea completely based on what I’ve just been through and yet part of me wants to understand it. Quite a big part of me recognises that the mental side of recovery is as important as the physical. They must have to go hand-in-hand though surely?
Any time people start to discuss the mental impact and I hear about things like perception of effort I feel so frightened and so defensive. For me this experience was incredibly real and even though I know hardly anyone could (or can) understand what I was going through or how I was feeling and many people questioned it, it was (and is) real. I was tired all the time, I was fatigued all the time, I struggled to concentrate, I struggled to get out of bed. And just because I didn’t look on the outside like I’d given up, there were literally hundreds of situations and times where I wanted to.
So has it always been a perception in my head of limitation? I have to remember this conversation was in a room of marathon runners and people who like to challenge themselves, none of those people were just trying to get through day to day life working to make a living and being a mum.