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Monday, 31 October 2011


So I have had insomnia. It makes me a very cranky and very fragile. I can barely keep this shit together. But... usually, every day I laugh. And since most of us suffer with insomnia in cycles I was wondering how I could share that gift of laughter with you.

I am not sure you'll get quite the kick out if it that I do, I actually just spat a mouth full of water over the floor... again.

My kitty Cooper refuses to acknowledge my insomnia and instead has decided to assume the position of head pain the ass and mini terrorist which involves him waking me when I do finally sleep.

This is what he woke me with this morning. 

Sigh, it's a shame he is so flipping cute.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


I have often felt like a child hiding in a midnight wardrobe, scrunched in the corner desperate for the safety of light. It has been a long and increasingly treacherous decade and the universe has seen fit to challenge me incessantly.

But something lovely and sweet has happened in the last year that has made me feel like a belatedly commended soldier. The light has found me more often, bathing me in the gorgeous safe warmth of hope. It is really easy to drown in the blackness when you are sick and alone, but I want to celebrate the light.

What has been hardest for me with this illness, aside from the obvious death defying struggles, is the lack of understanding. Especially from those you love. Lack of empathy from family cuts close. Some have always understood it, but some have criticised and mocked me, thinking they are doling out tough love but unintentionally being cruel. However in the last year it is as though my suffering has become more visible and in their eyes less transient.

My Ma, from the first camp, bought me a new second-hand bed – barely used, ensemble, firm lush, dreamy. I had been trying to sleep on a – although gorgeous Tasmanian Oak – slat bed that until about a year ago kept falling apart, and then my brother fixed it, but the mattress was cheap when I bought it and it was ten years old, which we all know is thirty years old in ME years.

My sister, also from the first camp, bought me a portable reverse-cycle air-conditioner, which has also improved my quality of life immeasurably. This house is like an oven in the sticky Brisbane Summers – or Springs – and like a freezer in Winter – or Autumn since our seasons have now become two. There is nothing worse for us than being so exhausted and unable to sleep because you can not moderate your body temperature.

My lovely Aunty and Uncle, also first campers, have just generously bought me the computer on which I am now typing this, the computer I was using is older than my infection and it is weaker than me. With the combination of my failing cognitive functions, its unreliability and moodiness, just connecting online sometimes was more than my brain could manage.

I have a truckload of siblings, so this may get confusing, but another sister has helped me by giving me financial support to seek treatment that I otherwise could not afford. We've not had much luck from all of it, but to have the chance to seek any treatment is empowering. Then another sister has really kindly donated me her couches, which are beautiful and luxurious and comfortable. I spend almost as much time on the couch as I do in bed, it is like a day bed, covered in pillows and sheets, and before I was on an old and very uncomfortable couch.

Which brings me to my online besties. And had you told me a few years ago I could find best friends online, I would've thought it crazy, but a bond forged through struggle in darkness is stronger than those forged in light. I have found online this whispery spider-web of illness, with each offshoot catching more love and friendship and understanding. And on days when I think I might drown, they are my life guards, without them I would surely sink.

Of my real world friends, which inversely feels sometimes like the alien world, some have simply disappeared into the shadows, but others have stepped forward, stepped up, loved me more. And honestly, I already knew who I could count on, but it makes my heart hurt with the overflow of love that they're still here beside me when it matters most.

And lastly and most importantly, strangers. Strangers are who changed everything for me. Beautiful generous, sweet strangers. I made a friend down the street who is also sick and she is a Mum, and she barely knew me, but she came to see me one day when my body seemed committed to death, and she saw me and decided to fight for me. This makes me cry every time I think about her, she changed everything. She contacted the charity Communify who then committed to get me a cleaner – I had been on the government waiting list for a year – they also got me a second-hand dishwasher through Givit and had it installed at no cost to me. A stranger stood up and fought for me and with just her voice, things changed. My quality of life vastly improved, Communify put a railing on the stairs to give me something to hang onto, they put a grab bar in the bath so I wouldn't fall.

Extraordinarily the second is a stranger, a woman who is also ill, who has a disabled daughter, she and I have been meeting in the waiting room at the doctors for the last decade and she has been able to measure my decline in weekly increments. She brings me medication she finds useful, things I would not be able to afford, she is outrageously generous.

It seems my invisibility cloak is slipping, my corner spot in the wardrobe is growing cold, and the slither of light grows. I cannot wait to throw the door open and step out, and maybe then I can be the voice of a stranger for someone else.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


When I sleep tonight, curled up in bed, wracked with pain, weak and defeated, I will huddle under a blanket of Death.  I am lucky in this present, that there are several layers between me and Death so its scratchy coldness does not rub abrasively against my skin tormenting my dreams with its false intimacy.  But in the early morning hours, when my subconscious is untethered I sometimes hear Death whispering sweet nothings, beckoning me elsewhere.  And one day I fear I will wake swaddled in Death, too weak to unwrap myself. 

Death is such a distant prospect for most people.  It is an idea, an imagined place, a remote destination.  I think it must be hard for healthy folk to understand what it is to be stalked relentlessly by Death.  To know that in the moments when you have not heard from it, you are being watched, chased from afar.  And then the distance closes and Death becomes bolder, aggressive, and ever present. 

We do not speak of it often; we don’t think you will believe us.  But we feel it, the membrane of protection between us and Death is woefully thin.  Sometimes it thickens like scar tissue on leathered skin, but mostly it is a miniscule layer that is permeated by tormenting forces – virus upon virus, bacterial infections, excruciating pain signals, cognitive dysfunction, spasming muscles, and neural symptoms – and sometimes all at once.

Today we lost a CFS warrior, a bright star, a creative mind, an intuitive soul.  I do not know yet if she died from our illness or complications from it, but either way we all know it will not be classified as caused by CFS or ME.

She has reinforced my belief that we must not go quietly into the night.  That we should give voice to the truth, that Death is ever present, that for those of us who are very ill, we visit with Death often, sometimes stoically fending it off, other times doing our best to just ignore it.   Sometimes we even manage to put a little distance between us, but in quiet moments of joy, we remember Death will come hurtling back just as soon as we stop being careful.

So for those skeptics who torment us, you cannot die of hypochondria, perhaps you need to challenge your belief system.  For the scientists who debate and play political games, we do not give a shit which one of you is right, all we care about is trying to have a future that doesn’t involve sleeping with Death every day.  And for sanctimonious, self satisfied students who take joy in finding fault in the work of others, you have every right to make a point, but you do not need to be vindictive to do it.  I want the truth, I don’t want a fairytale, I’m a big girl, for f*%k’s sake I battle Death every day, but don’t be an asshole when we are all slowly dying.