Invisible illness

I’m going slightly off-topic for this post, but although it’s not strictly about being a Mummy it is about being a girl who grew into a woman who became a Mummy. So there.

When I was eleven I was diagnosed with “post- viral fatigue” following a bout of glandular fever. I was going through puberty, I had constant bugs and within that first year I lost my beloved Nanny. When I was twelve my post-viral fatigue became Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which, in turn, became Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Encephalopathy (M.E.)

I spent the next fifteen years on a rollercoaster ride of appallingly bad health with periods of relative comfort and back again. At my worst I was confined to a camp-bed in my parents’ front room; at my best I managed to struggle through uni, but it was bloody hard and I needed a lot of support. I’m not going to talk about my experience of M.E. because there are people who talk about it with far more eloquence than I could manage. But what I will say is that it was a horrible time and it came as I should have been going out with friends, meeting boys, making mistakes and growing up. I didn’t get to do those things until much later. Except the mistakes. I’ve always made plenty of those.

Cut to fifteen years later. I was training to be a teacher and teaching a few hours a week. A job came up in the college I was in that would give me more classroom experience without the stress of paperwork and lesson planning. This was my first ever full- time job and I struggled my way through the first few months, sleeping as soon as I got home and for almost all of the weekend, but then I found myself in a routine and, more importantly, a good remission.

That remission lasted longer than any before and for the first time I could imagine a future where I wouldn’t be limited by an illness I hated and a body that seemed to be my enemy.

When I found out I was pregnant, and particularly during those first horrendous sixteen weeks, I was nervous of relapse and petrified that I wouldn’t be able to look after a baby if that happened. But then the morning sickness eased and the fatigue lifted and I felt amazing. That feeling hasn’t really gone away.

It’s taken me a while to accept that I’m recovered and to stop being scared of planning things, but now I feel like I owe it to Ted to be in the best possible health. I don’t have M.E. and my epilepsy doesn’t really affect me, but there are other conditions in my family that can potentially be affected by weight and fitness.

So I’m getting healthy by getting fit. I’ve been following the Weight Watchers programme and I’ve lost a load of weight, and now that I’m more confident I’ve started exercising. Since taking Ted swimming I’ve also started swimming classes myself, I go to aqua-aerobics twice a week and I’ve just had my gym induction.

This person I’m becoming – who enjoys exercise and looks at the timetable of classes at the leisure centre and buys gym gear and uses “time off” from Ted to go to aqua-aerobics – seems like a stranger. This is someone I never thought I’d be because I never thought I could be.

I used to poke fun at my friends at work who go hill-walking for fun or who go to the gym after a long day at work, but really I was just hiding my fear behind a screen of “laziness”. And don’t get me wrong, I’m still lazy. If I can get out of doing the washing up or folding the laundry then I will. But taking care of myself? Well, that’s a big deal. And it’s exciting!


About Stitches and Stretchmarks

Honest and frank Mum of one.
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