I often wonder what someone looking in the window of my bedroom would think if they watched for any length of time. And no, that's not some kind of kinky invitation to voyeurs, I'm talking more about the various treatments for my CFS that I have tried, and that may look a little unusual if seen from outside.
When I am at home, I spend most of my time in my room. The house I live in is in a housing estate with different streets backing on to one another and so, even though my room is at the back of the house, it is still facing the backs of other houses. The other houses are all in a row so there are probably four or five houses where their occupants could potentially see through my window and into the room, if the curtains are open.
In truth, even the windows nearest to me are about forty metres away, so for a good view a person would need binoculars or really good eyesight. Still, with the light on, at night, with the curtains open, a good view could be had of the goings on in my room.
I really like the orientation of my room, facing, as it does, to the south. If there is any sun at all it will come directly in through my window, and because the house is well insulated, the room will stay warm most of the day, even in November. I also really need brightness and sunlight, and really hate these short dark days of winter, so I tend to keep the curtains open as late as possible.
Anyway, I'm sure that there isn't anyone looking in, but if they did, they would see some unusual things. Last year I had treatment with the Perrin technique, and that involved a lot of self-massage. I had to put olive oil on my chest, neck and back, and massage the skin upwards towards the collar bone.
The trickiest part of course, was doing the back. On the Perrin website they actually sell implements for massaging the back, but I decided to improvise, and rigged up a large flat duster that had a handle, elastic-banded a smooth plastic bag to it and turned it into a back massager. I could reach right down to the base of my back with it, and sweep upwards towards the neck.
Usually when doing it I closed the curtains, but I had to do it three times a day, and so couldn't always be bothered. I can imagine that from outside it must have looked like some kind of bizarre ritual of self-punishment, flagellation with a red duster, maybe something kinky!
Then, three months ago I bought a Far Infra Red sauna. There were a number available, but I got the cocoon model, which is basically something that looks like a flat, sliver sleeping bag that you attach to an electrical control box. I am in here every second day now, all wrapped up in my alien-looking cocoon, with wires coming out of it, looking - to anyone who happened to have a handy telescope at their back window - for all the world like some kind of Frankenstein contraption, or an extra-terrestrial examination chamber!
And then there is The Mask. I have written about The Mask (the name itself suggesting some kind of horror movie) before, here. I was given it by the Breakspear clinic, and told to wear it for four hours a day, as a way of getting the levels of carbon dioxide in my blood up.
So now I mainly wear it in bed, but occasionally I have worn it during the day. It looks like something that the guys in Breaking Bad wear when cooking crystal meth, or like a gas mask they might have worn in
Once or twice I have had to go to the bathroom while wearing it, and couldn't be bothered to take it off, and so have ventured out to the landing and the bathroom, hoping not to bump into one of my housemates, and then have to explain everything. Once I even had to get up at night to go to the toilet, with the mask on and, though I didn't see anyone, I could only imagine the reaction of one of the people I live with if they had bumped into me coming out of my bedroom, looking like Walter White coming from his meth lab.
On many occasions I would have been visible for anyone across the gardens and in one of the upstairs rooms in the houses that back on to ours. It does make me smile to think of someone looking in and seeing me sitting in my armchair, breathing like Darth Vader through this big hunk of plastic, and wondering what the hell I was doing.
In general things have settled down a little, after my severe relapse, and then slow recovery. The mask, though it helped me to pick up in the worst days of my crash, doesn't seem to be helping much now. I am persevering, and hoping for the best.
I have stabilised though, and am a little closer to my old self, though still about ten percent down on my pre-crash levels. I have found that using the mask a lot during the day makes me sleepy, and so I am concentrating on using it more at night in bed. All of the measures that I mentioned above: the Perrin technique last year; the far infra-red sauna; the rebreathing mask; all of the money and effort and time that I have poured into these attempts at recovery, have resulted, so far, in precisely nothing. Zero, zilch, no progress at all. In fact, if anything, I am a little worse than I was twelve or eighteen months ago. It is necessary to keep going, but sometimes it really does feel like bashing your head against a brick wall.