For the longest time, I have been waiting for something momentous to happen before I could write ‘My story’. I was waiting for that big, official happy ending and to be perfectly honest, it has taken me up until this very moment to realise that a picture perfect happy ending was never what I needed at all.
All I ever needed was proof that despite the countless setbacks, day by day, I have continued to move forward. Proof that finally, I have closed that chapter of my life and I am now able to begin writing the next one in a whole new shade of colour and whilst that chapter will always, always be there to reminisce upon, it in no way needs to be left wide open for those memories to have meaning.
The imprint of those life lessons goes far beyond the depths of any ink covered page. The imprint of those life lessons has been left somewhere much more permanent, somewhere that no amount of weather could ever begin to fade. Somewhere that despite the years passing by will continue to remain perfectly intact and regardless of the chapters that may follow, it is those very moments that will both influence and inspire not only the beginning and the ending, but every aspect in between.
While it officially began a few months prior, approximately one thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight days ago, my world had well and truly been turned upside down. Not only could I barely make it from my bedroom to the bathroom without having to stop and catch my breath, but I was beginning to lose count of the number of extremely elderly women who continued to overtake me, each and every time I would visit a medical practice.
What first began with a simple migraine had fast developed into something much more serious and within a mere matter of weeks, the happy, healthy, outgoing nineteen year old girl that I had once known was just a fond but distant memory.
Soon enough, showering became a daily mountain climb, similar to that of Mt. Everest and holding a conversation became so exhausting that it was just easier not to speak at all. My once picture perfect memory became non-existent and the body that I had so carelessly taken for granted was beginning to waste away.
To the naked eye however, I appeared perfectly fine.
To those people on the outside who caught only a brief and fleeting glance into my life at that point in time, nothing seemed out of the ordinary; the façade of an “I’m fine thanks” followed by the quick flash of a pretend smile and sure enough once again, all was well in the world. Those who stayed just that little bit longer however, were able to develop an insight into an illness that at the time, I myself could not even understand. An illness that while overwhelmingly common, is still not in any way recognised by the majority of medical professionals nor is it acknowledged by the members of our everyday society.
Like 99.99% of other Chronic Fatigue sufferers, a trail of endless doctors visits, specialist appointments, naturopathic consults, homeopathic remedies, magic healers and alternative therapists brought us no closer towards answers. Instead, it was beginning to seem that rather than properly diagnose, the medical industry as a whole preferred to disregard the vast range of symptoms and pass them off anorexia or depression, followed closely by the typical “It’s all in your head” comment.
Eventually though, after countless tests and far too many dead end roads, an official diagnosis was finally made. A diagnosis which at first, like the rest of the world, I was unsure what to make of. Ironically enough, I was under the impression that as the name implies, the illness was a simple matter of extreme fatigue. As I soon found out however, that could not have been further from the truth.
Not only were the days filled with extreme, unimaginable fatigue, but the pain went so far beyond just that, that even now, it is almost impossible to describe.
Night after night spent battling Fibromyalgia so severe, that no amount of pain killers or wheat packs could dull the pain. Every second of every day spent trying to cope with headaches so strong that I honestly believed at any given moment, my head was going to explode. Internal organs that were slowly but surely, doing everything in their power to one at a time, completely shut down. Digestive problems so persistent that eating even the smallest of meals would cause a chain reaction of events. A list of food intolerances so long, that even I myself struggled to remember. Brain fog so constant that not only would I forget a conversation I had held just a moment ago, but my vocabulary had dropped to that of a three year old; making it near impossible for the words to travel down from my brain and out of my mouth. Hormones that were going so wild and crazy that not even the doctors knew what was going on. Circulation problems that not only turned my feet a beautiful shade of purple, but left me with hours of pins and needles. Heart palpitations so strong and so sudden that not only was I almost thrown out of my chair each and every time, but I was beginning to genuinely fear the likelihood of a heart attack. A constant state of low blood pressure that caused more vasovagal episodes than I have ever before had in my life. A perpetual haze of dizziness that began to make everyday life a nauseating blur. Eyes that had become so light sensitive, I was beginning to feel like a real life Gremlin. Lactic acid levels that were so high, they could compete with that of a marathon runner and an immune system that was left so compromised, that I managed to fall into the mere 2% of the population who instead of coming down with a common cold, managed to find myself hospitalised with Viral Meningitis. A list of symptoms that while my body may have slightly dulled the memory of, I will never, ever forget.
Along with those symptoms however, came an even longer list of tried and failed attempts to cure and while I won’t bore you with the details, I will share with you some of the highlights:
1. Lymphatic drainage massages twice a week that whilst undoubtedly being beneficial for my recovery, more often than not, had me in tears.
2. A two-hour long drive, weekly, to a clinic that not only gave me a painful Vitamin B injection in my rear end, but who also treated me to an hour long vitamin cocktail that was given via an IV drip. A cocktail that despite not helping at all, became more excruciating as the weeks passed by.
3. My personal favourite; a spontaneous visit to a man who had access to a device which unfortunately, legally allowed him to electrocute his patients. A device which sure enough, he proceeded to use during my visit, more times than I was able to count. Needless to say, it was without a doubt the most traumatic experience of my life.
As horrific as all of that was however, despite the negative way in which Chronic Fatigue obviously impacted my life, the wonderful people that I was lucky enough to have been surrounded by, made it all the more possible to stand back up every time that I would fall.
My amazing Mum; the one who held it all together when the rest of the world would have so easily let it all fall apart is without a doubt, the single, only reason that I am where I am today. Without her endless love, support and persistence in finding answers, I can honestly say that my world would be very different right now. Without her constant positivity and daily reassurance, I have no idea where I would be. Not only is she my rock, but she is my very best friend.
My strong and stable Dad; my beacon of strength. The one who was there each and every time that I needed to fall in a heap and cry on his shoulders. Not only is he my constant reality check, but he has continued to remind me that although there may indeed be limitations right now, those limitations are not in anyway forever.
It is because of these beautiful people that I was able to fight through the toughest of days and somehow, make it out the other side. It is because of these beautiful people that I was able to find the inner strength to wake up every single day, for one thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight days and continue to hold out hope that one day, tomorrow would be different. One day, I would wake up to a tomorrow that was not only pain free and beautiful, but a tomorrow that held the promise of a bigger, brighter future. It is because of these beautiful people that I am able to say that treasured ‘one day’ has officially arrived; tomorrow is here and not only does the world appear more beautiful and more precious than ever before, but the future is becoming brighter by the second.
One thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight days on from what has without a doubt been the most challenging experience of my life and I can say with absolute confidence that day by day, those baby steps are finally becoming just that little bit bigger.
So, to that lovely female doctor who appeared to have no problems telling a fragile, nineteen year old girl whose entire heart belonged to the sport of baseball that she would never play again, nor would she ever be even slightly physically active; I am here to tell you that you were wrong, in every sense of the word. Not only have I signed back on to play the one sport that you told me I would never play again, but today, for the very first time in one thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight days, my little legs and I went for a run. A run that although only small in distance, was larger than life in meaning and although the act itself was overwhelmingly freeing, it was knowing where I had come from in relation to where I was now that was the most rewarding of all.
To that lovely female doctor who shattered my spirit and broke my heart, I am pleased to say that not only have I managed to pick up the pieces and place them back together again, but despite your lack of confidence, I have managed to turn my life into something even more amazing than I ever could have imagined.
Today, for the first time in one thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight days, I reached what I believe to be the single, greatest milestone of my life. Today I proved to myself that despite endless setbacks, I am well and truly on my way to the life that I have been dreaming of for far too long. Today I proved not only to myself but to the world, that despite the struggles life may throw our way and the time in which it takes us to overcome them, if we look hard enough, there will always, always be a light at the end of the tunnel.
It just so happened that today, that tunnel brought me out to the single greatest moment of my life thus far, to a light that had taken the form of the most beautiful, perfect, sunshiny day that I had ever laid eyes upon. A day that I will not only remember, but will cherish, every day for the rest of my life.
So whilst the past one thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight days have indeed been quite the struggle. One that I would never in one million years wish upon anyone, honestly I would not change a thing. Despite the countless moments of uncertainty, it was that very same struggle that has without a doubt molded me into the very person I am today.
A girl who is strong, but has known weakness. Confident, but has known self doubt. Brave, but has known fear and above all else, hopeful, despite being faced with endless reasons not to be. A girl who despite countless rainclouds and stormy weather, has been able to find sunshine and beauty in some of the most unlikely of places.