What Having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Has Taught Me

Tuesday, September 15

By Austin James

I never understood the concept of embracing pain. The notion sounded a little ridiculous to me honestly; pain was well...painful! So why would anyone embrace such a terrible feeling? And that was my continued viewpoint until I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). 

Now, despite how the name might sound, CFS isn’t just “feeling tired” all the time. Living with chronic fatigue syndrome is like someone telling you from this moment onward you will never again be able to sleep. Ridiculous right? But that’s exactly how it feels. Regardless of how many hours of sleep I get, I wake up every morning with the horrific, aching, head pounding sensation that I have not slept in 72 hours. CFS symptoms can manifest themselves into flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, chronic headaches, and the most unbearable fatigue you’ve ever experienced...every day. No breaks. No time-outs. No “I’ll just sleep it off”. CFS is an every day, all day, 24/7, condition.

Oh, and did I mention you’ll be expected to go to school, work, keep up a social life, and make time for hobbies, all whilst experiencing these symptoms? Oh, and there’s no cure! Yes, chronic fatigue syndrome is truly a joy. 

Now listen, this is not a sympathy article. I’m not looking for pity or sympathy or your well-meaning “get well” statements that make me want to rip my hair out of my own head. 
This article is about how I learnt to embrace pain, so I circle back...

As you can imagine I am in a lot of discomfort for pretty much 95% of my days, and as imagined, being in pain for so much of your life takes a serious toll on one’s mental well-being. To put it bluntly... who wants to even be alive when this is your life? 

Learning to embrace the pain from my chronic fatigue didn’t happen overnight, and there are some days when I still want to crawl into a hole and never come back out, but learning to embrace my pain meant learning to view pain as I would view any emotion. 

Emotions are dynamic; they come and they go just like the tide of a wave. They’re filled with layers upon layers of complexity, sadness is not only sadness, it’s filled with hints of anger, frustration, hurt, longing...

I can’t do anything about my chronic fatigue, but I can choose how I view it. Trying to be positive about it all the time is not only unrealistic, it’s emotionally unhealthy. I view my chronic fatigue for what it is; an ebbing and flowing tidal wave of complexity, carrying not just overwhelming fatigue but a stream of hurt, pain, and longing along with it...

and that’s okay.

I’m not going to have a “normal” life, so I’m not going to strive for one. 

I’m not going to be able to run marathons or win boxing championships as I’d dreamt of, so I’ll have to find new dreams. 

Chronic fatigue has taught me to embrace the pain, not because I enjoy it, but because I could not live my life if I didn’t. I realized that spending my days trying to fight tooth and nail against this condition wasn’t going to get me anywhere. So if this is what my life is going to look like, I might as well embrace it. 


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