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When Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Affects My Ability to Travel in a Car

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When I passed my driving test at age 22, I was naturally thrilled! I had freedom. I could get into my car anytime I wanted and go anywhere. Up to the shop when it was pouring with rain, days out, and relaxing night drives with the summer night air gently breezing through the window.

At at no point did I ever imagine not being able to drive any more. At 21, I developed myalgic encephalomyletis. Symptoms include fatigue, post-exertional malaise, dizziness and cognitive dysfunction. Five years on and I am unable to drive anymore.

My perception and concentration are affected greatly, and if I were to attempt to drive while experiencing the multitude of symptoms I do, it would be the equivalent to having a few alcoholic drinks in relation to my reaction time.

I can manage a short drive up to the shop, two minutes away, a few times a year. Some days, I do feel well enough to drive further, but I need to save what little energy I have for daily living activities or anything else I need to do.

But I’ve accepted that. It’s like anyone – if you don’t feel well, you don’t drive. So I have someone take me to medical appointments.

What I’ve found harder to accept is that not only my ability to drive has been affected, but so has my ability to travel in a car.

I am prone to dizziness and nausea, and the motion of the car triggers this very easily which can leave me dizzy for days. I have to take prescription tablets for vertigo before I can consider traveling anywhere.

But that’s not all — just looking at the road is exhausting. The movement, the noises, it is all excess stimuli that my body can’t handle. I have to wear sunglasses as I have light sensitivity, and if I don’t wear these, it drains me.

To most people, being a passenger in a car is relaxing. To people with ME, it is exhausting. Once or twice a year I am able to visit my family just less than an hour and a half away.

By the time I get there, I have around 50 percent of my (little) energy left — and that’s before social interaction and the journey home.

My doctor’s office is 20 minutes away. Some days, after 40 minutes of traveling and 10 minutes of face-to-face interaction with the doctor, I am completely wiped out and have to go straight to bed.

Most of my life exists within my house, as it does with many people with ME.

But when I passed my driving test all those years ago, never ever did I envision that being a passenger could be so exhausting and make me so ill.

I admit, I took it for granted. But if I ever get better, I never will again.

Originally published: September 22, 2016
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