I’m pretty much an average teenage girl from an outside view. If you saw me, you wouldn’t ever guess that anything is wrong. I wear no cast, I’m not at a hospital. When people see me, I’m to all appearances fine. My illness isn’t something you can see, but I struggle with it every single day. It affects me physically, mentally, emotionally and even socially. The things you do easily are difficult and taxing to me. My thoughts can’t often focus well. I can’t connect much with people my age—I’m afraid if I explain my illness, they just won’t understand. I write this to help people understand my illness. I have a condition called Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS).
When people hear ‘chronic fatigue,’ they often think, oh, she’s just tired all the time. It’s so much more than that! I’m exhausted, drained of energy. I can’t go to school like normal kids my age, even though I want to very much. A little walk around the block, and I have to take a three hour rest to recover. A whole day on my feet, and I’ll be in bed for the next two days. It’s hard to stay on a regular sleep schedule: insomnia and hypersomnia are frequent. Nausea, dizziness, sore throats, and aches and pains in general are all in a day. Every tiny thing takes much more energy out of me than it would from you. That’s part of having CFIDS.
This illness affects my thinking as well. I used to be able to write a paragraph in two minutes. Now it can take hours. I used to be so on top of stuff, I hardly ever forgot a thing. Now things I’m supposed to remember just flit away. It’s hard to do even simple math problems in my head. I ask for several reminders daily of what day it is. You should understand, this is not me. I’m not an absent-minded person. I really am smart, and I love to learn. The illness just causes a fog in my brain that is rarely easy to see through.
Emotionally, CFIDS can really mess things up. When I first started getting sick, and I couldn’t do more than two things from my lengthy to-do lists, I became depressed. My future looked very bleak to me. As I was actually diagnosed with CFIDS and depression, I started taking medicine for the depression, which made life much better. Having an illness like this actually makes me more appreciative of the small things in life.
For me, the way CFIDS affects me socially is the hardest. I’m not much of a talker, and I don’t like attention. Telling anyone about my illness makes me uncomfortable at best, terrified and horribly embarrassed at worst. I try to explain it to my friends, but there’s always an irrational fear that they’ll treat me differently, or that they won’t understand. I can’t always connect with my peers well. My illness prevents me from going to school regularly like they do, or participating in many of their activities.
With the way my illness affects my life so completely, I could have never adjusted to it on my own. Even before getting sick, I had a testimony that God is there, and he answers prayers. The only way I get through every day is through prayer and faith that God is with me every step of the way. One of my very favorite scriptures is Isaiah 12:2.
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he has also become my salvation.”
I always find comfort knowing that God is with me through the best and worst of days, and that he is my strength when I have none.