Today (12th May) marks the annual CFS/ME awareness day worldwide. The more I meet both people with CFS/ME and those who know them, the more I feel so strongly that this disease needs a much greater awareness. So many people have this illness, young and old that you probably know at least one person with it, and yet so many people are ignorant of it and its lasting effects on both those who suffer from it and their friends and family.
This blog was originally started because I realised that not only did I know nothing about it, but neither did most of my friends and family. Not only this, but I discovered just how difficult it is to find reliable and helpful information about it so that even those kind enough to look up their friend or family member's illness are not rewarded for doing so. So today, to mark awareness day I shall give you a little insight into my life, to add to the multitude of others who are doing the same today.
I have been ill for almost 5 years now. It affects every aspect of my life, nothing is beyond its influence. I first became ill after my GCSEs (which I took a year early) in that the inevitable slump that comes just after a battery of exams never seemed to quite go away. Since then I have both improved and relapsed a number of times with the biggest and longest relapse occurring last January, in my second term of my first year at university. For most of this time I had no idea what was wrong with me, and even now I can say with confidence that I have CFS/ME this doesn't always enlighten people.
When someone asks 'how does it affect you?' or 'how are you?' where on earth do you start? I have had a number of times in between the last relapse and getting a proper diagnosis when people have asked me these questions and there is so much to explain and mourn that I have no idea what to say and instead stayed silent. The best I have managed is 'I am so very, extremely, unbearably TIRED' and even that doesn't cover it.
Getting a formal diagnosis, while mentally wearing and a lot of hard work, has been helpful, not only in terms of formalities (such as applications for benefits) but also for me to have a qualified consultant confirm that all of these confusing symptoms are real and come from a physical cause. It has also made me more confident in telling people.
In an everyday context, every action I make must have thought attached to it concerning how it will make me feel at a later date - can I afford to do this activity in light of what I must do later, tomorrow, over the next few days. My energy is extremely limited and therefore precious. It cannot be wasted. As a young person this is hugely frustrating and limiting and even now I still mourn for the things that I cannot do, and for the freedom I used to have.
I have never been a very positive person, things usually come half empty rather than half full, but I have had to learn to search harder for the positive things. I truly appreciate the valued few who understand enough to ask the right questions, to give me space to rest without fuss or offense and who keep me in their prayers. I have attempted to learn more about God and his relationship with us. I have to admit that for a long while I was bewildered as to what God could possibly do with a weak and useless body like mine and the mystery of how God can show His strength through our weakness is something I have also been searching for. God gives and takes away, and He has given me so much since I last relapsed. I am sure He will continue to keep giving way beyond I can imagine.
I understand how difficult it is to know this illness if you don't have it (which is why I write on this blog) which is why today is so important. Please take some time to read posts by people like me, which often in themselves take up a lot of valuable energy and require great bravery to produce such honesty. Also, if you are interested, I have other blog posts that cover other aspects of the illness that I don't have space to cover here, such as a list of symptoms, practicalities I have had to go through as well as my thoughts and feelings. Thank you for taking the time to read this.