Turning 29, a time for reflection and celebration for this girl with ME / CFS

29 Apr
Image source via Pinterest

Image source Β unknown via Pinterest

It’s my birthday later this week and I will turn 29.

I am someone who ordinarily loves loves LOVES her birthday. My friends and family often comment that as soon as Christmas is over I start thinking about my birthday. When I was younger they definitely had a point!

This year it seems a bit different. It’s not so much that I have an issue with the age 29, though I can’t say that I’m particularly happy that I only have one year of my 20s left…but it is only a number.

Birthday hat cat, just made me smile. Image source unknown via Pinterest.

Birthday hat cat, just made me smile. Image source unknown via Pinterest.

My issue with my birthday this year is more to do with what it means to my ME / CFS. Let me try and explain.

I was 26 when I became really sick with ME / CFS. I’m lucky in some ways that it happened to me when it did, no earlier no later. I had completed university and law school. I had qualified as a solicitor and had a good job with good health insurance provision (which has been worth its weight in gold). I was in a long term loving relationship with Mr B and had amazing friends and family around me. I’m glad that ME / CFS didn’t drag me under until I was 26. I know of people who have had to drop out of university because of this illness and that must be so hard. I’m also glad that it didn’t happen say ten years down the line when (in my intended plan for my life at least) I would be married with kids. So in some ways I am glad that ME / CFS struck me down at 26 and that I am now ‘only’ about to turn 29.

That’s all the nice stuff with a positive glow. The flip side is this. I am about to turn 29. This means I am now into my third year of being so sick with ME / CFS that I am unable to work, do housework, exercise, look after myself on a continuous basis or have an active social life to name but a few restrictions. I know three years isn’t a particularly long time to have had this chronic illness and that I’m not as severely affected as many people. But, to be frank, it sucks. When I was first sick with ME / CFS, when I was 26, it never once crossed my mind that three years down the line I would still be in this situation. But hey, that is where I am. It is what it is. I am moving forward but there is still not a definite end in sight. That is scary.

Friends and loved ones around me are moving on with their lives. They are getting married, having babies and progressing in their careers. I desperately want to be able to do the same. 29 is not old, but it’s also not so young. The unknown of ME / CFS makes it very hard to feel calm about the passing of time. It feels like my life Β has been on pause for the last three years and I have no idea when I’ll be able to press the play button again. That is scary.

Time to breathe and STOPΒ I think.

So it’s not that I am scared about being 29 and so close to being 30. I’m not mourning my 20s. It’s not that. It’s just that I’m scared at how quick time is passing without me really making dramatic improvement. My birthday is a milestone, it marks time and is giving me pause for thought. It has made me step back and evaluate where I am. Thoughts and feelings that I successfully keep suppressed most of the time have bubbled to the surface.

But it is what it is. There is no point me letting myself dwell on all of the downsides too much. I have so much to be grateful for, so perhaps I should just shut up and get on with it! I do love birthdays and this year is unique in that I’m in Philadelphia with my sister and Mr B and we have some (paced) exciting plans for the week! So I need to leave aside the ME / CFS angst and just focus on being happy on the one day (or week!) of the year that is my birthday πŸ™‚

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One Response to “Turning 29, a time for reflection and celebration for this girl with ME / CFS”

  1. tiredtechie May 8, 2013 at 1:34 am #

    Happy (Belated) Birthday! I totally understand what you’re saying. One of the hardest things about this disease is the uncertainty. You don’t know if you’ll be well next year or in 5 years or never, and it makes a difference in how you live your life. New age philosophy tells us to “live in the moment” but it’s not a very practical notion. We can’t decide what to do today without having some idea of our long-term circumstances.

    I made a conscious decision very early in my illness that I wouldn’t wait to live but I would live to the best of my ability right now. This meant letting go of my old life entirely and finding a new one that works with my limitations. It has been very rewarding and more than a decade later has turned out to be the right choice.

    I certainly still have dreams of recovering or of doctors finding a cure, but for day to day life I have to assume that things will continue as they are, and look at it as an opportunity to do things and have experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t have had (like watching every match of every world cup, no matter what time zone it’s in!). It’s better to take stock of what you’ve got and what you can do with it than to worry about what you can’t do any more. There are plenty of people worse off than us and yet they manage to have full and meaningful lives, so why shouldn’t we? Whoever invented the saying “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything” couldn’t be more wrong!

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