A few months ago I was out with my family and our oldest family friends. I barely muttered a word all evening and had to leave early. I didn’t talk to my friends, one of whom had just graduated. I didn’t/couldn’t even say congratulations. It got me to thinking…
Chronic illness has altered my personality in that I am too exhausted to be the person I really am. I’ve become a diluted version of myself, all thanks to this illness. I am too physically unwell to function as my true self. (It seems some people struggle to get their head around that and they disregard my explanations with a simple “M.E. really must be a mental and psychological illness.” Now there is nothing wrong with having such an illness, but M.E. is NOT one and you’ll make me cross if you say it is.)
People comment that they see “the spark” coming back as the months and years progress which is encouraging and lovely to hear, but it’s also a bit sad that I can’t see that ‘spark’ myself and feel so far from the person they still see me as.
Many people say I’m just the same old Anna, infact I think everyone says that. I find that baffling! I don’t see how I can be, when so much has changed and I’ve changed with it. Maybe for the couple of hours a month that they see me I give it everything I’ve got, because I’m so excited to be socialising, and so the person they see is infact almost that Old Anna.
That’s invisible illness for you. My outer shell looks much the same (minus the oddly coloured hair, weight gain, pale skin, boy haircut, etc) but the person inside feels such a huge juxtaposition to what people are (apparently) seeing.
I feel I’m not as chatty or ‘bubbly’ and I can’t keep in touch with my friends or reply to messages like I used to. My responses are often short and without humour too, because I can’t seem to form the same sort of sentences as I once would have. I am not always able to offer fellow sufferers support and friendship when, at one time, I would have done. And yet I couldn’t survive without their support. It feels very selfish, which I don’t think is very ‘me’.
Other aspects of my personality have been highlighted because of my being ill. I am much too empathetic, so much so that I am unable to read the news without getting upset about what I’m reading. Some parts of me have perhaps remained exactly the same. I still love to photograph everything and anything, much to the dismay of my siblings. When it comes to diets I am still lacking the willpower to see them through until the end. I still choose to dress in clothes that some others find…unusual.
In some ways I have become much more laid back. In other ways I still worry just as much as I always did, maybe even more. I’m less grumpy and argumentative but the ‘feisty’ and opinionated side of me is starting to pop up here and there according to The Family. Feisty? Me? Pfft.
So you see M.E. really does have an impact on absolutely everything.
How will I know when I’m back to being ‘myself’ if I can’t remember who or what that person was? Maybe I will never be the same again after having endured such a harsh life changing experience. Maybe that’s for the best. Who knows. There are parts of the new me that I hope stay with me forever, just as there are parts of the Old Anna that I hope aren’t lost forever. One thing is for sure, I still seem to overanalyse things just as much as I ever did.