When you live with chronic illness you are faced with choices every day. The most important comes in the morning. If there was a gauge for emotion with happiness and hope at one end of the spectrum and desolation at the other, you would find that most of us wake closer to the dreary end. But we choose through sheer willpower to push the needle through the middle ground and as close to the happiness end of the spectrum as we can manage.
One of my sisters suggested the other day that I consider CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, because I am striving for answers and treatment, rather than just accepting that there are none. I think she fears I’m wasting time being unhappy with my life when it may never be any more than what it is now, so perhaps I should just concede defeat and be happy with what I have.
I had a few issues with that suggestion, firstly CBT has been found to be detrimental to people with CFS/M.E. often exacerbating our symptoms and causing more damage, and secondly and more importantly I don’t need it. I’m not unhappy, I’m dissatisfied. There is a huge difference. When people make these offhand comments I do wonder how they would feel without their partner, kids, job, house, car, independence and income. Would they feel satisfied and simply and easily accept this fate?
After spending a decade on forced introversion, there is no emotional stone unturned, no thought or theory unconsidered and no escape from reality. We don’t have the luxury of denial; every moment of the day is a brutal truth. I believe my sister simply doesn’t want me to struggle unnecessarily. But acceptance is one thing, giving up is another. So although I have learnt to accept this fate, I will never stop hoping that things might be different.
Instead, every day I get up and choose to hope for better days. I watch the morning sun filter through in shafts onto my balcony making dappled light dance over chairs and imagine waking up and feeling refreshed. I collect pretty vintage pieces for the moment I may be able to wear them somewhere other than at home. And in my dreams I play netball in fluid agile movements that feel almost like dancing.
I will not just resign myself to this fate forever. CFS is an ever-changing beast and one day some of my dreams may be possible. Why should I just give up on the idea of having a family, my own little cottage, my first new car, a decent income or a career? I am not delusional, I am always honest with myself, so I have accepted that I may not ever be a mother, or own a house or car, or have a career, but it’s nice to imagine having those choices.
At the moment I don’t. But what I do get to decide is whether I am happy, and you know what, mostly I am. And when I’m not, I hope to be happy the next day.