Happy International ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia Awareness Day everyone!!
Today, 12 May, is a day for raising awareness of ME / CFS and Fibromyalgia internationally. (Ok - so it's clearly not the 12th any more but that is when I started writing this piece.)
In honour of this I would like to make the subject of my post today me. Or rather ME.
This blog was created to chronicle my bleeding condition - von Willebrand's disorder. This is a rare disorder which means my blood doesn't clot very well. It is a little like haemophilia and has caused me to have an interesting a blood soaked life, since diagnosis at 6 months old.
I'm now 36 and whilst I am a happy little bleeder generally - who finds handling a long term chronic disorder, within my capabilities - the last few years have been a bit tougher. (If you would like to find out more about the von Willies please do peruse my previous posts - preferably with a cup of tea and slice of summat to keep your energy up.)
Something I have blogged less about is my experience of having CFS or ME.
Why is that?
I know my von Willies well. I was born with it. It is who I am. I am a bleeder. I am able to live in that knowledge and with the challenges that presents in a fairly confident, capable and good humoured way.
The von Willebrand's is treated with clotting factors. Which are made from blood products. From these blood products I contracted Hepatitis C way back when they were shooting clotting factor into my little girl's veins.
The Hepatitis C stuck with me, infecting my blood and messing with my liver, until I had the second of two lots of treatment, which managed to eradicate the virus from my blood.
Good news right?
I really struggled with the treatment - Interferon and then Pegalated Interferon and Ribavirin.
And I mean really struggled.
It wiped me out.
Beat me up.
Wrang me out.
Shook me up.
Drained me out.
Chewed me up.
And spat me out.
It felt like being in a washing machine for 12 months.
Ever since the second lot of treatment in 2003 I have had recurring CFS or ME.
I still felt I was on the treatment six months later, 12 months later, 2 years later and still now 7 years later. Unable to work. Unable to live the way I used to. Existing. Waiting.
Don't get me wrong I have had periods of being well - being able to work, to live a full life, to fit everything in I wanted to and more....
However the reality now is not so good. My natural outlook is a sunny one. I see my CFS as a grey cloud that contains me and is not always easy to shine through.
The tricky thing is that to the untrained eye I look well. You look at me and don't see the cloud. Or the fog or the mist that clogs up my mind and body.
I used to find it hard to acknowledge the CFS. My mum once gave me a leaflet on ME and said - this sounds much like what you've got. Oh no, said I, that's not me - I'm just getting over the Hep C treatment. I'll be fine in a bit.
Even now if people ask me how I am - I'm fine! Or if not fine - I'm a bit tired.
A bit tired!! Understatement city :)
It is difficult to write how hard things can be. Equally it is difficult to talk about how hard things can be.
That is a problem.
How can I expect people who do not have, have never had ME or CFS to understand what it is like if I don't let it out.
You may be looking at the picture above and saying to yourself - she looks right enough. That is understandable.
If you see me looking well - which I do when I'm in public, most of the time;
or see me getting to the supermarket - which I do some of the time;
or if you have a conversation with me and I'm upbeat - which I try damn hard to be all of the time;
you cannot be expected to understand the reality.
I have tried to be a bit more explicit, but when I mention how exhausted I am - you might say, oh yes I'm tired too.
When I say it's hard to get things done - you might think, oh but you're lucky you don't work, you have plenty of time.
When I explain how hard it is to sleep - you might suggest, perhaps if you did more in the day you'd be more tired and sleep better?
When I say how much my body aches - you might sympathise, maybe if you got out more you would be fitter and be less stiff?
Often I don't have the energy to respond.
To argue that my exhaustion is so deep it is like a coat of lead that I wear 24 hours a day - that prevents me getting out of bed, that means I hurt to wash my hair and hang out my washing because my arms have to be held up, that means I pant after going up the stairs and need a rest after washing, then after dressing, then after eating my breakfast...
To explain that it is hard to get things done because my brain doesn't work properly any more. You know how you feel when you're hung over? Like your head is full of wool and your body is poisoned? That is my normal state. I forget things that used to be second nature. I struggle to make a cup of tea if you're talking to me, to hold a conversation without losing my thread, to write a blog without wanting to smash the computer because I keep getting words wrong, to run a bath without putting the wrong tap on and flooding the house, to put toothpaste on the brush and not Veet. I can't expect you to understand that some days I struggle to fit in getting up and dressed and doing some tidying and making the tea. Let alone cleaning and ironing and paying the bills and having people drop in to see me. The washing machine beep sends me demented. Running out of cat food is a constant worry because it means having to go out to get some.
To elaborate that I can't sleep because I'm so tired it hurts. That my joints ache and my muscles twitch and I can't be still for longer than a couple of minutes without twisting and turning and writhing trying to find a comfortable spot. That I feel things crawling on me - on my arm, then on my foot, then on my back, then my leg, then my face. There's nothing there, it's just a symptom of the CFS, Crawling Effing Sods. That if I do get to sleep I often wake in the small hours and then it starts all over again - the pain and the aching and the crawling and then the mind chimes in telling me that I need to sleep, I need to sleep, I need to sleeeeeeeeeep!!
To tell you that the aches and pains are such that I can't sit still for more than a few minutes without stretching and flexing my legs, arms, fingers. Next time you have the flu and you feel so sore and drained you can't move out of bed or off the sofa - that it how it feels on a bad day with CFS. It feels like my bones are rotting and my muscles are aching and twitching in an endeavour to get out of this body.
Is it better for me to acknowledge the CFS? Does it help to let it out? Or does that just remind me how much fun it isn't??
I know fighting the condition doesn't work - that the energy used constantly battling to overcome the lack of energy and limitations of your body aggravates the condition exponentially.
So do I need to accept ME in order to get better? Embrace my little grey cloud and let it hug me back. Take care of myself rather than push myself to the limit? Listen to my body rather than shout at it? Allow my body to recuperate rather than expect it to continue at an unsustainable pace? Give my mind space to rest and restore rather than shower it with anxiety and pressure and stress?
Love and cherish not berate and frustrate.
Worth a try, right?
May Your Trails Be Crooked – Pop Up Card
9 months ago