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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Isn't All Doom and Gloom

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Having a long-term illness robs a person of many things. Personally, I miss being sure of my movements. I used to bake often but now I have to put so much concentration into each action that the whole process is too exhausting to be rewarding. I’m worried I’ll knock something off the work surface, drop jars, miss an ingredient or add too much, fall into the cupboards, misjudge the oven and burn myself…it isn’t an uncommon story.

I miss being able to do as many activities as I like. Now I have to prioritize appointments and hygiene tasks. I have very little energy left after these so I have to rest to allow me to attempt the next essential activity. I’m often too tired even to do things to help me relax.

Previously, when depression was enjoying a dominating presence in me, I’d walk for miles or do some power yoga. It would make me feel better enough to fight back. And I enjoyed it. Now, I’ve lost all the strength and stamina I’ve built up doing that. My legs feel weighted down, I struggle to walk around a small park and I can rarely hold myself upright. That’s a blow for a tall person, I can tell you.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though. Hear me out. In my efforts not to get impatient waiting for results and a treatment plan (eight months and counting), I’ve found things to take joy in that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

While being wrapped up in blankets, feeling like I’d never be able to move off the sofa again, I’ve been able to watch TV shows I’ve wanted to try for ages.

My PhD and lab work are still out of bounds so I’ve taught myself new skills instead. Who cares if it takes quadruple the time it should due to fatigue and absent concentration? Sure, my calligraphy isn’t polished, but until I can get my shaky hands under control, I’ve made peace with that.

Speaking of not being at work, it has been such a relief to deal with the record high summer temperatures in the comfort of my own home. Reactions do not make a lab an inviting place to be. And for office workers, there’s always someone who gets the benefit of the single fan while you drip onto the paperwork.

I’ve had the chance to revive hobbies I’ve given up on and discover new ones. Being able to draw a personalized birthday card or fill in my bullet journal is so worth having to spend time flopped on the bed afterwards. I’ve got a stack of cross stitch cards ready to be sent too. The benefits are far outweighed by the shaking induced stabbed fingers.

One must not forget the seemingly little things too. I’ve learned to find so much more pleasure in flowers. Nice stationery, conversations with family, people understanding my situation, visits from my neighbor’s dog, etc. Everybody has their own list of things which made them smile. Now is your chance to learn to take more comfort in them Write them down if that helps. It’s a great help for mental health too.

Of course, none of these things solve chronic illness. They simply help you to deal with your own situation. There will always be those who say, “Oh, you can’t be ill if you can do that,” and “It must be great to not to have to work.” Well, they’re completely wrong. You’re making the most of a bad situation. You’re dealing with something horrible so you deserve ways to make it that bit easier.

Getty Image by Vladimir Vladimirov

Originally published: July 23, 2018
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