This is the first time I have ever really spoken freely about my illness outside of my immediate family. I don’t know if I like to talk about it always or not. It has become so normal to me that perhaps I see no need to talk about it. It is taken as a given that I feel poorly everyday. My symptoms are ever present, lucky me! I think I needed this outlet though. I did. I needed to feel that I could communicate freely with others who are in the same boat. We are in uncharted, rocky waters, but at least we are together. Even if nobody reads it, I think I needed to do it for myself, to get things out of my system…
I can understand that people want me to be the person that they knew and loved for 21 years. Nobody wants that more than me. But for better or worse, times change. With M.E. most things are out of our control. There is very, very little we can control. We will inevitably have to cancel plans because our brain has decided to be an awkward bugger for no apparent reason. It is no ones fault. You may not hear from us from time to time. We may not reply to a text. We are not ignoring you. We are poorly. Very poorly. We are not doing it on purpose. We are not pretending. Why on earth would we have chosen this life of invisible but constant illness? And nor are we depressed and lying around feeling sorry for ourselves, wallowing in our own pity. Depression can come as a result of our illness. M.E. has taken our lives, but it has not killed us. We are in some kind of limbo.
Who wouldn’t feel down in such circumstances; When you are too weak to make it to the toilet and so you wet yourself or have to have someone spoon feed you or dress you and brush your teeth for you?! Our 100% may not be nearly as much as the average persons 100%, but we do try to give all we’ve got to maintain our relationships.
Fatigue is not tiredness.
It is hard to imagine how weak or fatigued you are with this illness. I’m sorry if you can imagine as it means you must be a fellow sufferer. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
Sleep does not improve our condition. In fact the mornings can be the worst for me. We never wake up feeling refreshed or rested as human beings should. We are often hit by night after night of insomnia. Staying up all night is not nearly as fun as I remember it being at university!!! We are not lazy louts who lounge around all day watching television. We are often too poorly to watch tv. It requires energy that we do not have. It is simply too much for our brains to process. With me, my vision is still affected by my M.E. and so this makes it difficult to read a book or magazine. If my vision was to behave, my concentration levels are not always up to the challenge anyway because of the overwhelming fatigue.
To cut a long story short, our bodies are not able to produce energy like they once did. Our batteries are flat and nobody knows how to recharge them, other than to rest but even that only charges us to a fraction of what we’d hope for.
People ask because they care. It is lovely that they care. We are grateful and thankful. I am incredibly lucky that so many do care. It is a question, however, that has begun to fill me with dread and unease. How on earth does a person who feels so poorly everyday, answer such a question? It is easier when I am talking with my M.E. friends as they understand that ‘fine’ doesn’t mean fine, it means ‘today I no longer feel that I need to be in hospital.’ I’m sure people wonder and worry about whether they should ask it or not. I know that I do with my M.E. friends. We now word it slightly differently between us: “I hope today is an ‘okay’ day” A good day for us is probably the worst day imaginable for a healthy person.
I am in the process of retraining my silly, broken brain. It is as if the power plug was pulled out before all of the important documents were saved. For example my brain seems to have forgotten that night time is for sleep, it struggles to regulate my temperature, forgets to walk in a straight line, feels dizzy if I am not lying down or have not got my legs up.
I have learnt, as have my fellow sufferers, that stress and adrenaline is not my friend. A stressful situation for me now, in my state of ill health, is having to decide what to have for dinner. It is something so simple yet so overwhelming since my brain has apparently shut down on me.
Within months of my diagnosis I received support from my local CFS/ME clinic. I attended an eight week group therapy course. Each session was two hours long. An incredibly long time for someone so poorly. It was soul destroying to see how much worse I was compared to the others. Not that it is ever a competition. I remember being too weak to take the lid off a pen to write my name. I almost didn’t go back after the first week and not just because it was too much physically. The course equipped me with the tools I would need to help regain some control in my life. It constantly reminded us that there is no cure for us, only steps to help to get some of our life back. The sessions covered:
Less than two months after graduating from university I started to feel ill. I had commuted from home during my last year at university and worked part time as a nanny and helping out with the family business. I had been busy. My body decided it needed a rest. It had a massive strop! It is still protesting after years of constantly being on the go.
So I have no real idea how this works or what I am doing so be nice! Shall I start with an introduction? A bit about me? Well…
I am 23 years old but 24 in November, and, in true Anna Jones style, I am already excited! I have a degree in History. Modern History was my fave. I am tall (for a girl) and have finally accepted that my hair is brown; a lovely, exciting mousey colour, rather than the blonde I had convinced myself it was. Goodness me it is tricky to try and give a clear vision of oneself this way. What else can I say? I like sport! At school, many years ago, I was a bit of an all-rounder I suppose. I was in most of the sports teams, took part in the school plays, sang in the choir on several occasions (my apologies to all those who had to hear me ‘sing’) and I did very well in my exams. Yes. Yes, I suppose I was geek. I didn’t go all-out on the geek front and become a complete loner though. I had lovely friends, and still have many of them today. At university I made some just-as-lovely friends too. I have friends for life! I also have a wonderful family. They’re a lovely bunch! I learnt to drive at 17 and have always been able to get a tan! I have also always worked. Mostly with children but in restaurants too and I spent several years getting to see behind the scenes at Argos. What a treat! I like the normal things: music, books, food (nothing spicy though) and non-scary films (even Harry Potter was too much for me)…
In the last couple of years my life has completely changed. This is why I have started my blog…