I had a nasty thought the other day that my entire year as a 27-year-old was just spent being sick. Wow, that’s a great way to make yourself miserable Susan, so let’s rearrange that thought little miss overachiever. Ok, yes I was sick with CFS for my 28th year on this earth, but more importantly some very good things happened too.
- I’ve changed my busy ideas about life (as mentioned in this post) and really have no wish to return to my manically busy old life
- I’ve realised my career and financial success don’t mean nearly as much to me as I thought they did; the crazy fact is that I’m happier having this insidious illness than I was working at what I thought was my supposed “dream job” and earning a decent salary
- For the first time in my adult life I’ve managed my anxiety well; rather than shoving it down to my little toe I actually work with it, realising my limitations but not allowing it to control me
- I became an auntie (which is seriously special)
- I’ve had amazing research time for my writing with the amount of books and TV series that I’ve absorbed, which has also been fun!
- I started this blog, which connected me with people around the world in a fantastic way
- I went up to northern NSW to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins on their farm, something I hadn’t done in a long time
- I had an article about CFS published in my local paper for CFS Awareness Day
- I am a far better baker than I was before my illness, yay for baking
- I’ve improved my relationships with my family and some select friends as there is no bullshit from me, no pretence, no walls put up, I’m just me, and I appreciate so much the family and friends who realise that and do their best to comprehend my illness, understand when I need to cancel plans, offer me beds upon which to rest and keep in touch
- Spending time at the farm and on the coast has made me realise that I’m not made for Melbourne as I thought I was, I might live there again, but my eyes have definitely been opened to the good life out of the city, yay for open spaces and for beaches
- Importantly, I found CFS Health and made positive steps to recover my health, improving my sleep, nutrition, mindset and embarking on a very controlled and slow graded exercise program, which is building back up my strength. I also found a wonderful supportive community through the CFS Health Inner Circle, which has been so so helpful
- Most importantly I got to know myself a whole lot better; when your company for the day is Me, Myself and I you end up reflecting on life and your place in it. I’ve got to know me for who I am away from my career and plans and achievements and busy schedule and that’s a very good thing.
On top of these good things, it’s important for me to stop thinking about it as having been sick for two years as I’ve really only been doing the right stuff to recover over the last six months. I think it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sick, it’s when you start working on your recovery in a different way and make your health your priority that counts, and it takes a long time to wrap your head around all the changes to be able to make progress.
My biggest thing this year was working on my acceptance of this illness and the limitations it places upon me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still rather pissed off at the universe for sending this challenge my way, but I am no longer fighting against it. I have chronic fatigue syndrome, this is true and I can’t fight that inconvenient truth, yes it’s shit and painful and scary, but I am on the road to recovery. I have every intention of escaping chronic fatigue’s clammy clutches and regaining a new and improved life. I accept that I’ll sometimes feel sad and down and frustrated along the way and that that’s absolutely ok, as long as those unpleasant feelings don’t stay with me for too long.
Another big thing is I no longer push myself past my limitations and I listen to what my body is telling me; no caffeine-fuelled adventures for me anymore, if I don’t have the real energy to do something I can’t rely on fake energy. The tricky thing is, because of this acceptance I do a whole lot less than I used to, which makes it hard to see the progress I’m making, but I know I’m making smart choices instead of ignoring my body’s protests – plus, I haven’t spent three days in bed in a long long time!
The saying goes that “you can’t rush something you want to last forever” and that’s my approach to my CFS recovery: I am working on my health foundations and slowly but surely making progress and if I have strong health foundations then this illness will not be coming back. A friend in the CFS Health support group said that CFS is like a game of snakes and ladders, and I like this analogy as I am going to have bad days and go backwards, but I’m also going to be climbing some ladders if I do the right things, listen to my body and give it the time it takes to recover. So bring it on, CFS, I’m ready! Or, in the words of Friday Night Lights’ Coach Taylor: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”