There’s an old joke, which goes something like: if you quit smoking, drinking, fatty foods, chocolate, gambling and sex, you don’t live longer – it just feels like it.
Regardless of the truth, it does raise the concept of the difference between objective and subjective time. The world may spin through space, rotating every 24 hours, while orbiting the sun every 365¼ days, but our experience of the passing of time often bears little relation to the constant rate shown on sundials, digital watches and wall planners.
We talk of long days, short summers and continually wonder how it can possibly be Monday, again, so soon. And we all know that 15 minutes in the dentist’s chair lasts 37.4 times longer than 15 minutes on the Internet.
And so it is the CFS is playing havoc with my own internal clock.
For a start, it feels like I experience two days for everybody else’s one. From the long night and struggle to move from not-quite-asleep, to more-or-less-awake, through the highs of the morning espresso, the caffeine comedown and the slump after lunch, by the time I crawl into bed around 2pm, I feel as exhausted as if I’d done a long hard day’s work. Day 2 lasts from sometime around 3.30pm, which needs to be kick-started with a strong coffee, and lasts until the approach of midnight, when most people are finishing their only day of the day.
And yet, the amount I manage to achieve in any one of these half-double days is minute and trying to work on any longer term projects is exceptionally difficult. In my former days of energy, it would generally take half an hour to properly get into something, but then several hours of work could be committed to it there and then. These days, however, I have barely started before I’ve run out of gas and my mind starts floating about, unable to sustain the focus required. Needless to say that constant starting but never getting anywhere is a frustrating process.
So despite the fact each week lasts a fortnight for me, I achieve in that time less than I used to in a single day.