30 Years Beyond Comprehension

Sunlight shining through the trees of a forest

Today is the 30th anniversary of the day I became ill.  How surreal those words sound, even after three decades spent adjusting to them.  My illness now accounts for three quarters of my life: a span of time so vast that it defies comprehension. 

When I fell ill as a healthy young girl, thirty hours was the standard upper limit for being unwell.  The prospect of even thirty days of incapacitating illness would have been distressing; thirty weeks or months impossible to either believe or imagine.  Here, after thirty years of severe ME, I am in a place far beyond anything the mind can process.  It is a fact both shocking and absurd. 

Like many with an acute onset, I can clearly remember the day my life changed forever.  For numerous anniversaries I was inclined to relive that day in detail, the way one might recall a devastating accident.  The emotions were often intense, with a real sense of grieving anew for the girl I had been.  

Nowadays I look back in a more detached way.  In part this is because I feel the division between the healthy and ill me less acutely.  Sick or well, I am me and this is my life.  It’s very different to the life I would have chosen, and I work constantly towards changing it for the better.  But I can’t hold onto the idea of it being the wrong life: not when illness now accounts for so much of my time here on earth. 

I had not planned on writing anything to mark this anniversary, partly because I felt that a lengthy, thoughtful piece was required to do it justice, and I wasn’t in the mood for that.  But today it seemed apt to recognise the day and to acknowledge that, sometimes, anniversaries don’t come loaded with emotion and introspection.  Ultimately today is just another day, which I will live as I do any other: working around my severe limitations to find purpose and enjoyment.  When I think of the girl who fell ill 30 years ago, I will do so with sadness – but also with pride for all she has survived.

Three children stand together, smiling, in front of trees
Me (right) with my siblings, shortly before M.E.

The complex emotions surrounding lengthy illness are addressed in more depth in Thoughts on Reaching 40 and New Year Reflections

Image: Forest by Gustav Gullstrand on Unsplash