Dealing With a Chronic Illness Relapse Just As You Get Your Life Together

This day two months ago, I was in the Canadian mountains on the back of a horse — no hat, no reins, no care in the world, the autumn sun on my face. I was trotting around the stable grounds, listening to the crisp leaves falling off the trees, the clomping of hooves in the earth, my own happiness ringing in my ears. This is it, I thought. I’ve kicked it. I’m cured. I finally have my life back. I can finally begin again.

And I write this, two months later, from the confines of my bed, in days-old pajamas, with unbrushed hair and a tear-strewn face, mourning for something I so nearly had. It is one thing to be ill with myalgic encephalopathy (ME) and fibromyalgia for 12 years — and I’m only 22. But it’s another to have everything you’ve ever wanted dangled in front of you and snatched away just as quickly.

ME has been my life for so long. Fibromyalgia only joined the party three years ago. And when I say party, I mean party. From when I was 17 to 18, I was given a reprieve. A false hope, but a year-long one. I was partying like a teenager. I was working my ass off at two jobs, I was pounding the pavement and the gym every day. And so slowly, I couldn’t go so far on the treadmill. I couldn’t drink as much tequila. I couldn’t dance as long — all until I couldn’t work anymore, nor get out of bed again. I was nearly 19 and had everything snatched away. I remember the anger, the denial, the grief, the confusion, the despair, the suicidal thoughts. I remember them, because I am greeted by them once again.

I went to Canada for the sole purpose of getting better — or at least, a little better. I stayed with family, drank more water, had Reiki, found healing crystals, had equine therapy, life coaching, fresh air, the core strengthening of riding. I was frantically Googling and researching my future the minute I arrived home a month later, going to riding lessons, turning a Tinder date into a relationship, telling the pain clinic I so don’t need their help anymore because I have crystals and horses. And then I got sciatica. And then I got a chest infection. And then I got a kidney infection. And so the lessons stopped. The Googling stopped. The happiness stopped. The life stopped. And the mourning began.

And in all of this, I forget how strong I am. I forget how strong we all are. I forgot I promised myself to never let this illness make me bitter. That I will always have hope. That the day will come. I had dreamed of Canada for so many years, and I made it happen from my laptop and my bed. I made it happen because I was at one of the lowest points I’d ever been in and saw no more I could lose. Through blood, blisters, migraines, sweat — so much sweat — exhaustion, so many tears and a panic attack on the plane, I got there. Damn it, I got there! And I will get there again, and I will do it all over. And if I relapse again, I will do it all over again. Because as much as I may wish to throw in the towel, to wave the white flag, to surrender and crumble into the earth, I have had too many glimpses into what life could be.

Today may be hard. Tomorrow may be harder. The following day may be the hardest. But the day after that? That day may just be the day we’ve all been waiting for — the day we can just be, without looking over our shoulder. Those days exist, and I exist now for those glorious days to come.

Image via Thinkstock.

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