I really am struggling
2016 has thrown a bunch of curveballs at me. In fact, I would say that 2016 is a curveball in this thing I call my life. My health has let me down, and because of it, I have missed out on many things.
I was offered a full-time position at work, which is something I have wanted for a long time, but I had to turn it down because I couldn't physically work.
I had to cancel an amazing overseas trip to Jordan, Israel, Turkey and Greece that I had fully paid for and which I had been looking forward to for months.
I have been to multiple doctors’ appointments (far more than my usual once a year, if that) and had quite a few blood tests, only to be told that everything is fine—there is no physical evidence to define why I feel this way.
Yet it is clear that something is wrong. And after months and months of different diagnoses and being completely unsure of what is going on, I finally got an answer: I have Chronic Fatigue.
Chronic Fatigue is still largely misunderstood. There is no known cause, no way to test for it, no real treatment and no way to know exactly how long it will last. It's more than ‘just feeling tired’— there is a difference between tiredness and fatigue.
I am physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I get wiped-out after making my bed and I have to stop and rest. I can't stand for long periods of time without feeling dizzy and sometimes I’m on the verge of fainting. I could sleep for a blissful 10-12 hours at night and still wake up completely un-refreshed like I didn't even sleep at all. My concentration levels are extremely low, and I could be having a conversation with someone and look directly at them, yet have no idea what they’re saying.
The glands in my throat are constantly swollen and sore, and they get worse the more tired I am. I also have a constant headache that often isn't relieved when I take painkillers. So please don't ask me if this illness is just feeling tired all the time, or completely brush off how I’m feeling by saying, “I'm tired, too”. I'm not being lazy or over-dramatic, I really am struggling.
There are some interesting theories on how to fight Chronic Fatigue, but none of them are proven to actually help. People offer me their little bits of advice like, “take plenty of vitamins,” “eat vegetables,” and, my favourite one to date, “stop eating gluten.” While I know people have good intentions and just want to help, if medical professionals can't help me find a solution, neither can you.
However, you can make a difference.
You might not understand what is going on in my body, but you can be there for me. You can ask me how I'm coping, or what it's like to have Chronic Fatigue. You can take me out for coffee on a good day, or lounge around on the couch and watch terrible movies with me on a bad day. You can send me a text letting me know you're thinking of me, or tag me in cat videos on Facebook. You don't have to 'cure' me or even try too—I just need you to be there.
While it sucks having Chronic Fatigue, I am learning to look for the silver lining and am learning about self-care. I am trying to listen to my body—to understand when I am struggling and allow myself to rest rather than stubbornly keep pushing through.
I am doing my best to focus on the good things that have come along with being unwell. My family and friends have been incredibly supportive, and they go out of their way to drive me to social events. They watch lame movies with me, support and encourage me when I am having a mini meltdown, bake me cakes, write me cards and bring me presents. They put the smile back on my face.
I don't understand why this has happened to me. But I know that one-day, when it is over, I will look back on this, smile and say, “I did it. I got through it and it didn't destroy me.”