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Clarissa Shepherd reflects on chronic illnesses

In honor of May 12th Awareness day and all the courageous souls living with ME/CFS or Fibromyalgia

A Thief Of Dreams

Dear Editor:

Living with ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia or other such chronic illness can take so much from us. It causes us to feel inadequate and not good enough in numerous ways.
We lose so much of our independence – from going out alone to being able to drive at all. Many are living bedbound or housebound feeling so isolated and lonely.
We lose positions and careers that we loved adding to our grief, sadness, and loss of our sense of self-worth.
We lose our place in society as well as with family and friends. We miss out on family events, parties, holidays and more. While many around us never see this pain, it’s ever present with us.
We lose confidence in doing simple tasks such as taking a walk, cooking or baking, driving, speaking out for ourselves, trying new things, taking care of our finances and more.
We lose that simple peacefulness of “just being” – never feeling that quiet calm we once knew before illness walked into our lives.
Often times we feel defenselessness. We feel as if we’re bare skinned and exposed to all that surrounds us as if we have no protective barrier physically or emotionally.
Such loss of self-confidence and independence can lead to anxiety, fear, and/or depression. This we bear in addition to all the many physical symptoms of illness.
Our type of illness is truly a “thief of dreams” and emotionally painful beyond proper words of description. We don’t require sympathy but we do need understanding (two very different things).
Chronic illness is traumatizing to say the least. Yet our being ill isn’t a true reflection as to who we are. However, we may still feel this type of deep pain within our heart and very being.
We are not our illness and we must give ourselves credit for how we’ve learned to maneuver down a difficult path. Not everyone can change gears in mid-stream and still survive with such grace.
To walk this path daily requires courage beyond measure, so never think yourself “less than.” Know you’re strong even when you don’t feel you are. Know you’re brave even when you don’t feel you are. Carry that truth with you each and every day, knowing that many incredible people walk this journey alongside you, are surviving alongside you and understand your struggle as well as rejoice in your triumphs.
May our hands join together in spirit across the miles for together we’re truly made stronger.
May each of us find new ways to create, dream, imagine, and live beyond the confines of our illness.

Clarissa Shepherd