by Alicia Brennan
When I finally found my way out of the mists, I was eighteen. So much time had passed and yet, so little had changed. No matter how many doctors, specialists, or alternative therapists I was seen by, not one of them ever found evidence of anything, so I was still considered by most people to be imagining my ill health. They kept sending me to psychologists, who would tell me to get out and get a job. Like that was a possibility- I couldn't do any of the things I loved, let alone try to work. They had no idea of what I was suffering from. My GP, whom I still see to this day, was the one who at least gave me a name to put to my illness- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She was the only doctor I found who agreed that what I was suffering from was something real. I didn't even care if it was an accurate diagnosis or not by that point- I just needed something to call it.
It always frustrated me beyond all reason when people used to tell me how lucky I was, that I could watch television all day and not have to go to school or work. Nobody seemed to understand what I was saying, that lying around in bed all day every day is not the fantastic bliss that healthy people seem to think it is- it’s actually a type of hell.
If you want to understand the concept, next time you have time off work, try lying in bed for 24 hours straight, leaving only to use the bathroom. Easy, right? All right. Try doing the same thing for an entire week straight, without cheating. Are you getting bored yet? Are you itching to get out and do something, anything? To socialise with people that you don't live with? Are you sick of the sight of the same four walls, day in day out? Now try and comprehend the months and years I spent in or close to that state. Without the relative bliss of escaping the boredom for the six to eight hours sleep that I bet you had each night. We actually moved house when I was eighteen because I just couldn't bear to look at the walls in our house any longer.
My concentration levels were terrible, so I couldn't even really distract myself. Television was pointless as I couldn't follow the simplest plot and even reading was out of the question a lot of the time. There is only so many times you can read, re-read and try to remember what the first paragraph of a book is about before you just want to hurl the book across the room with a howl of utter frustration. Except that you can't seem to find the strength to do more than just push the book off the edge of the bed with a whimper of despair.
So you lay there, stare at the ceiling, and you think. Constantly. For weeks at a time. It doesn't take long until your thoughts stray so far from being rational that you barely recognise them as belonging to a human being, let alone to yourself. You lose touch with who you are, and with the people who love you. You say some messed up things to the people who love you enough to care for you 24/7, in the savage and misguided hope that in causing them pain, perhaps your own will lessen ever so slightly. Or that if you can hurt them enough, they will leave and never return, because you don't want to be seen in that state. Broken in mind and spirit- a breathing corpse without purpose or will. Nobody wants to be seen like that.
Sometimes you let your mind wander to what may have been your life, had things been different. Study, a career, a social life, travel, relationships, and a family of your own- basically anything that makes life worth living. But you can't allow yourself to dream about the future- it becomes too painful, and you bring your thoughts back to safer ground like death, or at least sleep. These were the only things that seemed to matter at the time in that messed up existence that was ironically called my life.
To be continued...
Alicia Brennan is married to a wonderful, supportive man, whilst keeping busy looking after three amazing kids. Making cakes in her past time and volunteering as a basketball scoretable official is something Alicia does regularly, all whilst deaf in one ear and slowly losing her hearing in the other. Living with MDD,CFS & other health issues for the past 20 years, Alicia has taken the opportunity to get out all of her pain onto the page - so she could 'accept it, let it go, and live her life to the best of her ability'. What an incredible woman!