Twenty years coping with the symptoms of ME is bad enough, but 20 years
of coping with people's
reactions to it adds insult to injury in the most literal sense.
First was the era of "yuppie flu", when people you'd never met before
felt entitled to
interrogate you as to the validity of your illness and your presumed
deficiencies. Nowadays I get either the "you need to pull yourself
together" brigade, or the
alternative types who ask what my illness means, and are sure I could be
well if only I
understood what it was trying to tell me. Well, if I haven't figured
that out in 20 years, that
must mean they think I'm pretty thick. Then there are the ones who say,
"But you always look so
well." Of course I look well when I'm out and about; it's because that's
a day when I'm well
enough to drive. They should see me on the other days.
Of course, this is largely about the rudely healthy being in denial of
the reality of illness.
Yes, it's scary to think you could wake up with a cold one day and never
be well again, and
there's little you can do about it. But don't try to force me to collude
with you in trying to
deny that it happens.
What I mind most, though, are the people who listen to my story with
such sympathy, but then
take equal time to describe the horrors of their current
cold/flu/chilblains. My usual
response? "Don't worry too much about feeling ill, it gets easier after
the first couple of
years." That shuts them up.
© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited.
This is one in a series called "What I'm really thinking", published on
a Saturday, every week
in the Guardian Newspaper in the UK.
They invite people to contribute, in time for publication, next Saturday
(19 March 2011).
e-mail - [email protected]
For inclusion next Saturday, letters by post should reach them by first
post on Tuesday and may
This is my reply
Re: What I'm really thinking: The woman with ME, Guardian, 12 March 2011
We may never have known about Laura Hillenbrand at all, or that she is a
very severely affected sufferer of M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) but
for her success as a writer, firstly, of "Seabiscuit", the novel behind
the film about the true story of an undersized racehorse with an awkward
gait, whose unexpected victories raised the spirits of a nation during
the Great Depression and now, "Unbroken", about the life of athlete and
war hero, Louis Zamperini.
In a recent Question and Answer interview (An author escapes from
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, New York Times, 4 February 2011
- Short link - http://tinyurl.com/4nlp57j), Laura has taken the
opportunity to increase knowledge and raise public awareness of this
dreadfully disabling illness, with personal experience, which may
otherwise have remained within the four walls of her bedroom and of
those who have not been able to reach outside them in the way her
extraordinary success has allowed.
There is only one point on which she and I significantly differ: Laura,
now 43, who has been sick for 24 years since the age of 19, says that
she doesn't remember what it is like to feel well. I am 57, have been
ill for 23 years but, even after all this time, I can vividly remember
what it is like to be healthy, go to work every day, have a full social
life and the fair share that everyone deserves, as though it were only
yesterday. And I want it (or at least some of it) back - for me and
everyone else who has been similarly robbed.
Everyone, of whatever age they were when this awful illness hit them,
has lost - or has had stolen from them - a huge chunk of their life,
whether childhood, teenage years, career, or sometime the retirement
they had earned. With the support of fellow sufferers, like Laura
Hillenbrand and some smart academics, I intend to try to stop this thief
and perhaps restore some of his ill-gotten gains.
Dr John H Greensmith
ME Free For All.org
Remember they are inviting people to send in their contributions.
Let's not disappoint them. Please make an extra effort to make that
Letters Editor's desk creak
under the weight of what we are really thinking.
Please don't leave it to others and then regret that you lost the
This is a National newspaper in the UK. M.E. doesn't recognise any
borders, so I hope that
sufferers of this awful illness from all over the World will tell us all
what they are really
e-mails to [email protected]
Dr John H Greensmith
ME Free For All.org