Remember, Remember the 21st of November.
It won’t lie. This has been the hardest birthday since the one where I turned 22 just three days after receiving my diagnosis. M.E. doesn’t care what day it is. It’s ever-present come rain or shine. Christmas, birthdays, weddings, funerals…
I’m back at the point where I can’t open my cards or presents without help. It doesn’t feel great. Even done at a snail’s pace, I’d gone a good few years of being able to physically open such things by myself. For those out of the loop, I’m experiencing my second ever Proper Relapse and am back to being very nearly as poorly as I was when I was first ill.
A birthday is Relapseville wasn’t what I’d have chosen, but it falling during Lockdown actually helped. I was too unwell to have any visitors, and that would have been very sad. But Lockdown removed that factor completely – no-one was allowed to come round. Every cloud has a silver lining!
All I really wanted out of the day was fresh air and to not have to wear dirty pyjamas. I got one out of two which in the circumstances is brilliant, I suppose.
I remained unwashed and in dirty pyjamas. I needed to rest in bed. I felt quite sad. Sad not to have been allowed some respite for just one day. And that is both okay and understandable. But I berated myself for not feeling grateful for what I do have; this husband of mine, our families, my friends and my unwavering support from my online cheer crew. And it wasn’t just that I felt a bit miserable, but also that I had no energy to be jolly. I think a lot of you here will understand that difference well.
I did try my best to remain open minded beforehand, and see what the day brought with it. But the chances of me waking up super ill were super high! There was no spare energy for excitement, and that is so unlike my birthday loving self. Dreading my birthday had nothing to do with lockdown and everything to do with this relapse.
It was just hard and sad. And not what I wanted it to be, that’s all.
I tried to see it as a day where people get to tell you they’re glad you were born. And that really helped actually. How lovely to have people who feel their lives are better because you’re a part of it.
As ever, Mr Tree Surgeon was exceptional. Holding me when I cried both happy and sad years, wrapping me in my ‘sleeping bag coat’ and wheeling my around the block in my pyjamas to see the Christmas lights down the street. They weren’t on. It seemed fitting somehow that the house usually renowned for being the best and brightest on the road was in darkness that day.
Birthdays during illness are complex. The pressure to be happy and excited… And if I think about this one too much I start crying again.
I’m hoping 32 is already giving me its worst, to get it out the way and allow for my year ahead to be on of easier times than this. I remain unwashed and in dirty pyjamas.
But in the meantime I’m surrounded by more cards than I can count. And eating more cake than is good for my immobile/sedentary waistline.
I had so many beautiful and thoughtful messages and presents and well wishes – so many people with an understanding that it was probably not going to a ‘Happy’ birthday this time.
Thank you to every single person who made it the best it could be. I cannot express how much of a difference you made that day, and every day.