All illness is horrible. Acute conditions are bad enough, but with a bit of luck you get better and life goes on. I've recovered from bowel cancer. It was quite advanced when discovered and I was very ill for a while, but I don't rate it as one of the greatest traumas of my life. When you have cancer, at least nobody tries to tell you that you are imagining it.
Chronic conditions are worse. Even if you do everything right, all you can hope to do is to minimise the effects. There is no prospect of recovery. I have three chronic conditions, depression, diabetes, and ME.
The depression was the first to arrive. It's not fun to live with. You wonder if you are imagining it, or whether you have become hysterical and pathetic. Everything in life is shades of grey; fun is a memory; dread is a constant companion.
Very shortly afterwards, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It seems that diabetes and depression often co-occur. This knowledge made the depression seem much less of a shadowy threat, and my attitude towards it improved a lot. These days, I manage both the depression and the diabetes reasonably well, and I don't waste much time worrying about them.
That leaves the ME. I hate it with a passion. It affects everything I do every day. It makes me feel idle, stupid, ill and incapable. It bothers me far more than any of the conditions I have described, even if you add them all together.
BUT - the bloody thing is invisible. I can't really describe it to non-sufferers. 'I'm tired a lot, and I ache a lot' begins to describe it, but it goes so much further than that.
It's cost me my job, and in my dealings with the benefits system I'm left in little doubt that the system considers me to be a cheat and a liar.
After a while, self-doubt becomes a real issue. You begin to wonder if you are subject to delusions, or you have turned into an unscrupled scrounger.
And then, out of the blue, comes a ray of hope. Here's a link to a post from ChronicallyME that captures my response to this news.
Suddenly, it seems my illness is a serious, grown-up illness caused by a retrovirus. The doubters have lost. The pseudo-psychiatrists are routed. I'm not dreaming this, I'm not a self-deluding layabout, I'm actually really and properly bloody ill!
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