We Acquire the Strength (of what) We Have Overcome
In July of 1991, something happened that completely changed my life. I had been tired for a couple of months, constantly feeling nauseas, my glands hurt and although I was exhausted, I couldn't sleep. One day, while driving, I almost fell I asleep and I had to pull over to the side of the road. It happened to be time for my 20-year high school reunion in Davenport, Iowa, my hometown. I was determined to go, even though it was an effort to pack.
The reunion was held in a swanky hotel on the Mississippi River. There were probably about 100 people there. I sat with some friends and we caught up on each other's lives since "the good old days. I was amused when I ran into the group of "mean girls" who had made fun of me because I was tall, had geeky glasses and braces. Now, being tall was "cool", the braces are long gone and I wear contacts. It was a slice of Karma coming back around.
On the plane ride home, I felt dizzy and exhausted. When I got to the lobby in the Palm Beach International Airport I collapsed. My parents came and took me home immediately. We found a brilliant internist who diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFIDS). He gave me some literature which read, "CFIDS symptoms include substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration, constant sore throat, swollen glands, severe headaches, sleep that does not refresh and malaise lasting for a long period of time". I was overwhelmed. My doctor told me that hopefully I'd be better in a couple of months. That was a couple of decades ago.
I think the hardest part of this illness is that I really don't look sick. I've had many well-meaning people through the years tell me I just need vitamins or positive thinking. Some tell me they have Chronic Fatigue too.
I had a three-year-old son to raise when I was first diagnosed. Thankfully, my parents were there: to help me raise him. Chris was very caring and kind; as he grew up he would make me soup. cover me with a blanket, tell me jokes. I think it helped shape him into the sensitive, wonderful man he is today.
There is no "cure' for CFIDS, but I've learned to live with it. At times I blank out when talking; my wonderful boyfriend, Dave, will fill in the words for me. His support helps tremendously. I dread handling money; I get very confused sometimes, even in a simple transaction.
My mom is probably the most positive person I know. She's taught me a lot about "picking yourself up by your bootstraps" and forging ahead, no matter what happens. Learning to live my life "one day at a time" has helped so much. The illness waxes and wanes. I've learned to deal with both ends of the spectrum. But even on days when I wake up and feel like I want to stay in bed, I force myself to get up, take a shower, put on some makeup and cat a good breakfast. but keeping good disciplines helps. I had always wanted to write so, during the years I was home a lot, raising my son. I managed to finish two novels.
Sonic very famous people have CFIDS. Cher has it and I've seen in the news many times when she had to cancel concerts. Laura Hillenbrand, an author, also has it. She wrote the book "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" which was the story of a stubby-legged horse who became a champion.
People like these give me inspiration. I try hard not to become negative and dwell in self-pity). There are people with much worse situations than mine. I swim in a heated pool at least 5 times a week and I walk my dog. Spencer, daily. Above all, my faith helps me. At the end of the day, if I can cross off even a few things on my to do" list, it's been a good day.
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