What is your advice to people who are just diagnosed?
Be kind to yourself. I know it’s so cliché, but chronic illness is real and it’s no small thing. It’s life-altering and, in the case of Chronic Fatigue, you need to allow yourself to take care of yourself in new ways. It’s not something you can ‘beat’.
Who is/ are your biggest supporter(s) and what did they do?
My biggest supporter is my best friend simply because she always ‘believed’ me. That was SO important to me in the early years of having this illness. She knew and saw how my life had been altered, and she often asked about it even when I seemed to be doing well. She is also no stranger to bringing me amazing baking, meals, and books!
What were the key elements for your recovery?
The key elements for me were rest, acceptance, and focusing on what I could do rather than what I could not do. And in that order! In the early days, the more I rested, the more functional I could be. That meant a lot of sleep, sitting down whenever I could, and sometimes wrapping up the day at 4PM. That was a hard time of disbelief that my life had been altered so dramatically and so permanently, and there was a lot of mourning the things that I could not do–things like exercise and engaging with my kids with a full tank. But as I mourned, I began to accept my new ways, and that brought healing both physically and mentally. Once of the biggest things that came from this ‘acceptance’ was realizing that, even though I couldn’t (and still can’t) do vigorous physical activity, I could still practice my art of writing which I even made into a new and exciting career! And I still could be a mom to my kids in almost every meaningful way. And I could walk with my friends and drink tea and enjoy sunshine and argue about politics and spend time in my favourite places in nature!
What do you do when you have a bad day, or feel one coming up?
If I have a bad day, I plod slowly through, nap if I can, and go to bed early. I avoid anything overly physical and keep going slowly. I remember after a long trip, coming home and knowing that I was going to suffer terribly with jet lag for a few days. The first thing I did was mentally accept that I was going to have a bad day or two, and then reminded myself that I would be better in a few days. And I was!
What good thing has your illness and journey brought you that you would not have had otherwise?
The best things my illness brought me were uncovering my passion for writing and EMPATHY. Before this illness, I was go-go-go and NEVER set time aside to explore my artistic side. CFS literally forced me to stop and the art of writing emerged in that space. I am so thankful for that. The other thing is empathy. Every new life experience, especially struggles, help you better understand and empathize with the adversities of others.
What is your go-to comfort food?
Soda crackers. So salty and comforting! But if it has to be a meal, Lamb Lababdar!
What is the best and worst movie or series you watched while you were ill?
I did binge many seasons of the Bachelor in the early years of my illness. So yes, that is both the best AND the worst series I can recommend. Honourable mentions go to: The Crown, Downton Abbey, Suits, The Office, Poldark, and This is Us
Can you share a quote, cartoon or inspirational message that cheers you up?
“Mom, can you read with me?” YES! I CAN!
If you have to come up with a metaphor for CFS what would it be?
It’s like your Mother-in-law showing up one day and never moving out! It’s not easy, but you’ve got to learn to live her. This is a time to discover your shared loved of British period dramas and long cups of Earl Grey.
Please share a picture of you in your happy place
|Symptoms starting: December 2012|
When diagnosed: 6 months later
Living at almost 90% when all is well
Hometown: Saskatoon, Canada
Adele Paul is a freelance writer and editor living in Saskatoon, Canada. Find her at: www.tuesdaysisters.com.