The trouble with that last bit is the kinds of stories you can tell about CFS. You see, the thing is, sick people don’t get to actually do much of anything. There’s no natural building tension that arcs up to a climax. Sick people are all dénouement. We live in the evening after all the exciting things have happened. We can recall back—remember when I was 19 and running around the city? Remember our first date where we walked to the beach by Navy Pier and ate Subway sandwiches, and I was embarrassed about having ordered a meatball sub because they are so messy to eat and I wanted to impress you? Remember when we walked back to the college and you held my hand because it was cold, but then you never let go the whole twenty minute walk home?
But now I watch movies about people who decide to change their lives—they go back to college, break out of old patterns, take up dancing or biking or reinvigorate their love life. And I feel like those people are aliens. The longer I’m ill (and it’s been over a decade now), the more separated from normal life I feel. It’s a foreign land populated by foreign people. I read about these people doing their exotic things like walking their dogs or driving to pick up their children from soccer. I watch movies where people fall in love and kiss in the rain. I get out of the house once a week and my husband drives me around and I see people jogging on the beautiful path by the river. And I stare at them thinking: I cannot even fathom what life is like for you.
I don’t want to be one of those people who is defined by the things I’ve lost. I don’t want to be the piece of art where all the negative space tells the story. But then there are days like today, where I barely manage three hours of work from my couch, and the rest of the day I’m all but catatonic, laying down and closing my eyes to still the spinning vertigo and resting my exhausted limbs. Days where I just want to scream at the top of my lungs at how crappy it is that I can’t drive a car, or get out of the house, or cook a meal, or contribute to the housework at all, or even read a book.
But the kinds of stories I want to tell have to end on a hopeful note. Even the story of my own life. So instead I’ll try to focus on the fact that some meds have allowed me that three hours of work a day, that I’m getting through my copyedits and will be done by the due date, that I get to be a writer and have a wonderful career that I love with work I can do from my couch, that I have a beautiful son and an amazing husband. And I try to remind myself that no matter the bad crap, this life I have is very good.