My journey with chronic illness has spanned over half my life. As a young teen, I received diagnoses for multiple mental health issues, including Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), major depression and anxiety. To this day, in my mid-30s, these issues still plague me. In addition to my mental health conditions, I have also been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses, including Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS. Starting my chronic illness blog, Life in a Breakdown, has helped to change my outlook on life and move through the pain.
I’m Sick Again?!
In my early twenties, I began to find myself once more. I had made it out of the cycle of abuse and was finally moving on in life with my faithful sidekick, my dog Sally, alongside me.
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At the start of the year I didn’t think I would be here, posting this today! But here I am. Today Sally dog has been in my life 13 years which makes her an amazing 18! Today has of course been all about her with lots of love, hugs and chicken! How’s your Wednesday been? #UKBloggers #UKBloggerLife #BloggersTribe #InstaDog #DogsofInstagram #IGCutest_Animals #AnimalLove #BuzzFeedPets #AnimalsAddict #DogsAndPaws #DogSmile #DailyBarker #DogsOfTheDay #DogStarGram #DogLoversFeed #DogsOnInstagram #DogsLife #WeeklyFluff #DogsCorner #MustLifeDogs #CutePetClub #PetsCorner #Mutt #Petsagram #PetOfTheDay #PicPets #FluffyPack #WorldOfCutePets #SeniorDogsOfInstagram #RescuedIsMyFavouriteBreed
I worked voluntarily as a youth ranger for the Wildlife Trust, where I spent all my time outdoors. On the job, I helped tend to the local flora and fauna of the area, took graphs of rare plants and even learned to fell trees. During this time, I also assisted with school visits, helping with pond dipping, animal identification, and pumpkin carving. Additionally, I re-enrolled in school, beginning a degree in criminology.
I’m adopted, which I strongly believe contributed to my mental health issues. From a very early age, I have dealt with invasive thoughts on abandonment and death.
Around my 23rd birthday, my birth mother and I planned to go on vacation with her and her husband, but instead, I fell ill. An outbreak of swine flu had occurred and I, unfortunately, caught the bug. The airline banned me from flying and I missed our holiday.
Although disappointed by this turn of events, I consoled myself that it was just a holiday, something I could easily do later. I never thought my sickness would never leave. You see- while the flu went away, I stayed sick, my symptoms replaced with constant fatigue, pain, and a foggy brain.
It’s Not Getting Better
At first, doctors told me it was most likely post-viral fatigue. All I needed was time and some rest.
Resting, however, was impossible.
If you’ve ever struggled with mental health, I’m sure you’ve heard the commonly repeated mantra “get up when you feel low”. You’re told that depression is preventing you from getting up when you don’t have the energy to move.
But, suddenly, I was told to fight that deep-seated idea. Now, when I felt tired, I should rest, which I found extremely hard to deal with. I went from an active lifestyle to resting 24/7, because my doctor’s told me I would get better. That all I needed was time.
However, things slowly began to collapse around me. I no longer had the energy to volunteer since it was too tiring and painful. I also had to put my studies on hold, because my brain couldn’t hold information like it used to.
Time is no healer
When it became obvious my sickness would continue to trouble me, I reached out to numerous specialists. Fatigue plagued me, and I often felt as if a weight had been pressed down on my body, making it difficult to move.
Doctors diagnosed me with a likely mix of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and fibromyalgia. Both chronic pain conditions have quite similar symptoms, although ME/CFS indicates excessive fatigue, while fibromyalgia implies more pain.
I also struggled with brain fog. Sometimes, it felt as if a fog came down in front of the information I needed to reach, and as much as I tried to recall that knowledge, I couldn’t grasp it. These days my partner, Ash, seems to have worked out what I mean when I wave my arms about and say “you know the thingy!” quite well.
The worst part proved to be that time wasn’t fixing me – all this waiting and I still didn’t feel better! I accepted my new reality, which included painful days and nights, non-refreshing sleep, and the mental health demons I had already been fighting for years.
So, I gave up. I had nothing more to give.
Trying to Carry on
Ash, unsurprisingly, found it hard to deal with me. When he would head off to work at 8 a.m., I was still asleep. Some days, I might move to the sofa, but others I stayed in bed until he returned at 5 p.m. Most days, I would only move to let Sally out.
Personally, I felt worthless, like my life was completely over. How could I go on in a world where my brain and body didn’t work? I couldn’t contribute to anything and I found myself numb to everything.
I had given up.
How could I pick myself up again and reform my life? How could I accept that for the rest of my days I would not only be fighting with my mind but also with my body?
I didn’t know.
Unsurprisingly, Ash got to the point where he had enough. Long days at work combined with my lack of energy at home were hard on him. So, he gave me an ultimatum – at least try to sort myself out, or he’d leave me.
I didn’t know how to begin, but I knew I had to find something that would bring purpose to my life again. So, I turned to something which had helped with my mental health: writing.
I knew a few people who blogged and decided on starting a chronic illness blog to share my daily moments. Believe me, my initial blog posts were completely random. When I first started blogging, I wrote a post about my Mum making a joke about carrots at dinner. It’s awfully written and barely makes sense, but I refuse to delete it. After all, it was one of my first posts, a moment that might not amuse anyone outside of my friends and family, yet still means a lot to me.
My Chronic Illness Blog Evolves
Neither I nor Ash knew if the blog would help. I admit there are times when I spend the whole day in bed. But now, it’s because of my symptoms, not because I’ve given up.
My chronic illness blog has given me a purpose. It reminds me of the good things in my life and allows me to express my feelings on my health. It also helps me connect with others who are going through similar situations and give them advice. Even though I’m dyslexic, writing has always been the easiest way to express myself. I find it remarkably therapeutic.
Because I have a successful blog, Ash and I have been able to go on many adventures together. Trips neither of us would ever have dreamed – such as the time we spent 24 hours in Paris or the holiday we spent in Whitby and Devon. Writing for my blog also gives us the opportunity to try new things, from new beauty products to a car lent to me for a weekend. I’m even able to treat my parents to the odd meal out or a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
Blogging gives me a way to carry on, to feel like I can function. Depending on your chronic illness, this activity might be different. For instance, I know many people who craft, but I had to give it up when I received my fibromyalgia diagnosis. Because my hands don’t work well anymore, I’ve also had to scale back writing to pen pals.
I guess what I want to convey from this post is that you can carry on as well. Life will be different and it’s a-ok to mourn the loss of your old life. However, there’s a new life waiting for you, one which you can find new joys in.
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