Living Life, Within the Limits of Chronic Illness

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2021 Goals

At the end of 2019 I posted a small paragraph in my 2019 round up post (which you can view here) with some things I’d like to do in 2020.

“As for 2020, there’s already 4 hospital appointments booked, here’s hoping they’ll all prove helpful! I’m also hoping to arrange meeting up with some more of the friends I’ve made online, health permitting on both sides of that one! To finish decorating my room and unpacking my stuff which has been boxed for two years now, as well as making it to the Christmas Carol Service at church, which is one thing I didn’t manage this year due to poor health.

Here’s to making the best of 2020, whatever it might bring!”

2019 Blog post

Little did I know at the time how meaningful that last line was going to be to everyone!

As for me, well I’ve made the best I can of 2020. Only 3 in-person hospital appointments, a few telephone appointments and numerous cancelled ones mean there has been little progress on the medical front. Unsurprising given the pandemic and the pressures the health service is now under. But the ones which did take place proved useful.

Of the other things I hoped to do, many have been impossible due to the pandemic; meeting up with friends I’ve made online, and attending the carol service at church have had to be put on hold. Perhaps they’re something I’ll manage in 2021 though, once the pandemic situation improves!

Despite having only left the house a handful of times over the past 9 months (I can count them on one hand!) I still haven’t finished decorating my room. However I have unpacked the boxes and started getting a bit more organised.

I’m reluctant to set any goals for 2021 at the moment; while it can be nice to have things to work towards and even look forward to, my health really isn’t all that good right now and combined with the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic I have no idea where to start. There are so many things I would like to aim for, or even say I’m going to do, but I know in my heart of hearts that with my health the way it currently is the chances of managing them is very remote. And I don’t want to be reading this back at the end of the year full of disappointment at what my health, and potentially the pandemic, prevented me from achieving.

So for 2021 I think I’m just going to aim to make the best of it and see what happens. Fingers crossed it will bring better things than 2020 did! I am going to try and document the good things throughout the year, both through social media, this blog and by keeping a good old fashioned list so at this time next year I can look through and see what I’ve managed to do.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and most importantly safe, New Year! Here’s to making the best of 2021.

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Christmas & M.E

Well it’s that time of year again. The time where everyone wants to see each other, spend time catching up and having a good time.

It’s a time I always look forward to and dread in equal measures. And I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels that way.

As I write this I am propped up on the sofa with my feet up, under a duvet with boxes of Christmas cards scattered next to me waiting to be written.

You see, with ME or any other chronic illness there’s pressure to join in all the festivities. And I mean all:

  • Sending Christmas cards
  • Putting the decorations up
  • Christmas Shopping
  • Present wrapping
  • Carol services
  • Family parties
  • Visits from friends
  • Visits from family
  • Family get togethers; on all the festive days – Christmas Day, Boxing Day etc.

And there’s probably more I’ve forgotten to mention.

I know friends and family don’t mean to put pressure on to send cards or attend these things, they mean well and just all want to see you and catch up. But even if it’s unspoken pressure, it’s still there.

And it’s not just Christmas either, this continues to New Years Eve.

People forget what happens in the lead up to Christmas. Because they can cope with the extra work that comes with it, they don’t give it a second thought.

But for someone with ME, or other chronic illness, joining in with the preparations takes energy in itself. Just writing cards can be incredibly difficult due to fatigue and painful joints. (In fact this year I’m cheating and only writing who the card is from inside it due to pain making it difficult to hold a pen!)

By the time the actual event comes round energy levels are often lower than usual. Meaning joining in social events at home, let alone leaving the house can be quite a task.

Symptoms are often already flaring; fatigue will be higher than usual having used so much energy prepping for the big day. Then there’s the pain, the dizziness and whole host of other symptoms which arise.

And any further activity, however seemingly small, can cause them to flare further. The more they flare the longer the effects will last. So if I push myself to join in a get together one day, the flare up of symptoms will most likely last a couple of days or a week. If I push through that flare up of symptoms and join in another thing in the days that follow, that flare will not only last longer but the symptoms will be more severe too.

Sometimes pushing through is worth it for the memories it makes; life with chronic illness means there is almost always a price to pay for doing things. And if you’re enjoying yourself you tend to forget the time, so do things for longer than you probably should, meaning the “price”, in the form of increased symptoms etc., is higher than it would be if you’d paced yourself more. But as I say sometimes it’s worth it for the enjoyment you get and the memories you make.

This year is different in many ways due to the pandemic, however with the 5 days of the “Christmas Bubble” whereby you can create a bubble with two other households including your own, I suspect there will still be some of that pressure there. I know that although we don’t have any plans fully formed in my family yet, there will be a meal with our “support bubble” at least which will be enough to wear me out. Especially given how iffy my health is being right now; it’s not a full blown relapse or anything like that, but symptoms are already flaring, old ones returning and moving round the house is becoming increasingly difficult.

I know for many this restriction on the number of households that can mix in a “Christmas Bubble” will be a relief, because some of the pressure that comes with the festivities each year will be reduced as a result. And there is no need to feel guilty about that. It is perfectly okay to feel that way, and it’s perfectly acceptable to set boundaries too, especially if you don’t feel comfortable mixing with anyone outside your household during this time. You do you, and do whatever you feel comfortable with in that regard  (providing its within the law!).

I hope wherever you are and whatever you do for Christmas this year, you enjoy yourself, your family are understanding and you can pace yourself as well as the festivities allow.

Happy Christmas and stay safe x

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A Pandemic Thank You

To those of you who have missed out on social events.

To those who have missed concerts, festivals etc.

To those people who have been forced to work from home with the kids under their feet.

To the ones who have found being at home difficult on their mental health.

To those of you who have been unable to attend someone’s funeral.

To the people who have been unable to visit or receive visits from friends and family while in hospital or care homes.

To those who have followed the guidance and stayed at home, washed their hands, worn a mask and kept their distance more than ever this year.

To the ones who have been working on the front line in key services throughout the pandemic.

To the people who have helped to protect the vulnerable and saved lives.

THANK YOU

You have done, and are continuing to do an amazing job. I can only imagine how hard this must be for you. I know how difficult I found being at home 24/7 when I first became housebound, and I had the advantage in that most of the time I didn’t feel well enough to leave the house; there wasn’t really a choice but to stay home when so unwell. So I can only imagine what it must be like to be healthy, or at least well enough to usually spend a lot of time out of the house, and have the stay at home rules imposed on you.

Even I have found it harder than I expected to; like I said I’m predominantly housebound due to my conditions. For years I have only left the house for medical appointments and if I’m lucky a short trip out once a week (usually to another family member’s sofa for an hour or so just for a change of scenery) so I didn’t expect the rules to have too much of an effect on me. And to be fair, compared with what you have had to give up this year, I’ve had an easy ride. But I have found being home, stuck inside these same four walls, that tiny little bit more than usual a bit difficult and at times it has gotten me down, I’ve even found myself missing the trips to the hospital (Something I never thought I’d say!). You have probably found it a whole lot harder than that.

Which is why I wanted to write this post and say thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I am one of those people you have been protecting by staying at home, keeping your distance, washing your hands and wearing a face covering. You might not be protecting me directly, but by protecting the people I live with you are preventing them from passing the virus on to me, therefore protecting me too. And it means a lot to me, and I’m sure many others, that you have given up so much this year, and continue to do so.

I have seen so much focus on the few who aren’t following the rules; gathering in their masses, not social distancing etc. and yet very little said about the majority like you who are following the guidance and protecting so many people, potentially saving their lives, by doing so.

I for one think you are amazing and doing a brilliant job, and I am sure I’m not alone in thinking this and being grateful for everything you are doing. I don’t doubt many of you are finding this a very difficult time, and by now becoming immensely frustrated by the restrictions imposed upon your life but I hope that by reading this post, and hearing the words Thank You you feel at least a tiny bit of pride in what you are doing, because you should be proud of what you’re doing, proud of the sacrifices you are making in order to protect others in society. I, and many others are immensely grateful to each and every one of you, Thank You.

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Isolation

As I write this I haven’t properly been out for over five months. There have been two short trips “out” in the car with my Dad, trips in which I haven’t left the car at all, but have still got a change of scenery.

In those five months I have been blessed to have a few visits from a friend, and some family members – all socially distanced and as government guidance allowed. And of course I’ve been lucky in that I live with my parents and sister, although for almost three months my Mum was living with another relative caring for them, so it was just me, my Dad and sister.

Despite this, the last few months have felt quite isolating. As the world began to return to some semblance of normal, with restaurants reopening, people returning to work, non-essential shops reopening etc. mine has remained the same. I mean it’s not exactly unusual for me to go for weeks on end without leaving the house, although in the year up to March you’d be hard pressed to find more than two weeks where I hadn’t had to leave the house for some medical appointment or another! But somehow this feels different.

Perhaps it’s because everyone was in a similar boat, so to speak, earlier this year during lockdown. But now watching everyone slowly return to something akin to normal, while I remain where I am, it’s like I’m back to the early days of my chronic illness. I’m being constantly reminded of what I’m missing out on, and in some ways it’s even worse now than it was back then – social media was in its infancy when I first became ill so there wasn’t the constant reminders on there, but also because its been a national experience the radio stations and news programmes have been absolutely full of pieces about life returning to normal, places reopening etc. and asking what people are most looking forward to doing again.

I listen to the responses and just keep thinking “I can’t do that” or “That would break me”. Quite honestly the thing I’m most looking forward to as things return to “normal” is the return of medical appointments, treatment, and yes even tests. I never thought that would be something that I would be writing, but since lockdown so much of my treatment, and the exploration of what could be causing some my symptoms, has all been put on hold indefinitely. And while it’s not a life or death situation (that I know of, and I certainly hope it isn’t!) there’s something about just being left to cope with everything on your own. I know I did for years, and I know many others also do the same. But having finally found a doctor who wants to work out exactly what is going on and is actually taking an interest in trying to figure it out and find ways to help, it has been very disheartening to just be left waiting for rescheduled appointments to appear in the post (I’m still waiting for them to appear).

I also know that the hospitals and everything routine in the medical world will probably be one of the last things to return to normal; they still need to be prepared for another spike in cases of COVID-19, but at the same time I am also acutely aware that other health conditions (whether diagnosed or not) haven’t just stopped because there’s a pandemic. As nice as it would be to be able to say that all other health conditions are on hold while the world deals with the pandemic, this isn’t the case. Yet this is essentially what the hospitals are having to do.

Sure there are other things I’d love to get back to doing, the things that I was managing before lockdown that got me out of the house, but having started a treatment that suppresses my immune system I’m actually rather nervous about resuming “normal life”, in part because I don’t know how much it is suppressing my immune system, and how vulnerable it is leaving me to viruses and infections. I didn’t get the chance to figure that out before Covid-19 made it’s appearance on the scene. So for now I’m extra cautious about things.

I’m sure I’m not the only person out there feeling this way, but it does feel like I’m one of a minority. And as a result I feel isolated. I see what everyone else is doing, I hear what everyone else is talking about, but I don’t feel like I can take part. I’m just not ready yet, and for some things, unless there is a miracle cure, I never will be.

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