Thursday, October 24, 2013

Invisible Illness Week

Something I wrote for Invisible Illness Week. Hope it reaches out to you somehow:

I was asked to write something for Invisible Illness Week. Thought I'd share, for all those suffering invisibly x

Here goes: I was 17 and full of life. After overcoming a life of bullying and put-downs, my peers elected me to be their Head Girl.

The students who used to thumb their nose at me and look at me like I was dirt were inviting me to parties and saying that I was an interesting and cool person. I didn't buy into it, but I was pleased to finally have enough confidence to stand in front of 1200 girls most mornings at assemblies and talk. I tried to use my 'power' to help the little guy, the bullied people and to get my sister out of class and to the sick bay when she was really sick and her teacher wouldn't let her go.

I attended the Youth Parliament in Wellington and gave a speech over live radio in the debating chamber. I was convinced I could make a difference as a politician, if not Prime Minister. Big things were ahead.
But I was tired, very tired.

One day, not long after finishing school for good, I came down with a terrible virus. I sweated, shook and felt like I was dying.

And I never recovered.

After that day, I was a changed girl. I forced myself to go to university although I honestly do not know how I survived. I would sleep for four hours at night and feel like I was literally dying every moment of the day. I felt my energy drain away from me until I was like an empty gas pump that people were still trying to fill up from. I developed severe depression, severe anxiety, severe insomnia and a host of other physical ailments like constant sore throats, dizziness, nausea, tremors, weakness and debilitating fatigue. Eventually, after 3 years, I was diagnosed with chronic Fatigue Syndrome, depression and anxiety, and Glandular Fever. After dragging myself through a languages degree and a teaching diploma I was skin and bone and barely able to leave my bed.

This eventually led to taking a truckload of medication which in turn caused a 70kg weight gain over 10 years. It also led to years of being almost bed-ridden, up to 7 seizures a day and the most crippling mental illnesses I had ever encountered. My life was hell. One of the worst things was that very few people ever saw how sick I really was.

When I went out, I put on a smiling face. It's my natural personality, not a mask. I love people and respond to them. To them my sickness could NOT be real because I did not look sick or act sick. I had several Christian friends tell me I needed to get my ass out of bed and down to church early on a Sunday morning to be healed and connect with God. I felt like crying out 'why don't you come and be God to me, come and visit me, come and pray for me, instead of judging me?'. My relationship with God was closer than ever. I had hours to pray and to hang out with him but still people felt I needed to show up and be seen.

I thank God for a wonderful husband and an understanding family, and those few precious friends who accepted me no matter what.
I am a lot better but I still have a long way to go. I still sleep for 10-12 hours a day and I don't keep conventional hours. I work part-time when I feel able to, and love visiting friends and meeting with them when I have the energy. When I have the energy, you'll see me. I'm the reasonably normal looking person. When I don't, you won't. You wouldn't recognise me.

Thank you for reading this and helping me feel not so invisible any more.

When you are weak, then He is strong.

Anna x