...where the demons from my past leave me in peace."
I have recently had a slight TV binge of the 'My Mad Fat Diary' boxset on 4od. For those who haven't seen it, it's about a teenager with mental health problems trying to navigate her way through the tangled mess that is adolescence. For something with such a flippant title, it is very moving and in some cases inspiring. The main character does not hesitate before starting new friendships and relationships, even though her illness will probably create difficulties. She constantly does things that terrify her, things that others do without thinking. And at the same time there is so much to relate to in the programme that it has left me changing my perceptions for days after I finished watching the last episode. Here are some of the things that have left me thinking and that I have been challenged about.
The perception that nothing has improved because today is a hard day.
This is a very easy one to think without even realising. It is the small moments of normality that make me realise that I have come so very far, both in terms of my health and how I perceive the world. I used to be so ill that I was in pain every minute just with the effort of existing but now I can walk and laugh and enjoy life in a way I wasn't able to this time last year. One day of feeling a bit rotten can be easily attributed to something like the heat of summer, but is all to easily attributed to a downward path. This has reminded me that thinking backwards to a more negative past can highlights the positivity of the present.
The perception that a friend's support is only what is visible to me.
This is where the demons from my past comes in.
Support comes in many forms, and a person does not have to be perfect to be a good friend. I have been let down throughout life in many ways, by many people, and to varying degrees, which has given me the warped perception of betrayal at every turn because you can see it anywhere if you really try.
A friend's support can occur in private, can happen with others when you aren't around, and with you in person. People have sometimes get the last one wrong, due to maybe a lack of knowledge of my illness, or perhaps my inability to speak openly about what I'm struggling with. It takes a lot of trust on my part to believe that the support is still there in other ways. The panic that comes hand in hand with sickness does not usually allow room for such trust, but is something I will need to work on.
The perception that people are scared of talking about illness.
I have met so many times with people who look awkward when I start talking about having CFS/ME, but this has been challenged by the observation that people view a person's illness in the same way the person themself does. If someone is able to live with their illness and work with it, this encourages a positive attitude from other people.
The perception that others see you as weak for struggling.
Maybe this is more my perception of myself. I have found in the last few years that you are what you eat and 'man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God". Having negativity in your life and being surrounded by negative things is likely to lead to a negative outlook on life. Getting by and being positive despite such a negative thing as a chronic illness is hard work and not something that comes easily to me. My ambition therefore is to become a master of the art of positive thinking. I used to think this was something negative people were told when others were bored of their negativity and feels like a cop-out as it is something the person must do by themselves and without the help of the person suggesting it. But this perception has changed; surrounding myself with positive things and encouraging positive thoughts will help immeasurably. It's not going to cure me but it will make living with sickness a little bit easier. I hope. "I'm sick of dancing with the beast."