Exhaustion as a badge of honour

In the past few years, every time I ask someone how they are the answer is more often than not busy or tired. It is almost as if these words have become an expression of emotional wellbeing and not a temporary state of existence. The narrative shifted for a little while during the pandemic, but it looks like it became even worse afterwards. It is like the fear of missing out became so strong that everyone started trying to make up for the lost time with extra push in every area of life.

Now it seems like everyone is so overwhelmingly exhausted of the whirlwind of the past few years, trying to process the trauma of it all, while constantly trying to escape. It almost feels like everyone is faking it in order to survive, and we have learnt to fake it so well that we are able to fool even ourselves; that we are happy, fulfilled and excited for the holidays. When in reality we are dreading it – the season, the family, the constant questions about when you are getting married, or having a baby; or getting that promotion. But most of all, we hate that we actually have to stop and think about everything we can avoid in daily life. It is like we have almost forgotten how to slow down; it might jar up too much that’s been brewing inside of us for so long.

I am sitting here wondering why am I even writing this?! Whatever I say, I will not be able to change what’s ahead of us. I cannot tell you how you should live your life, I barely know how to live mine. I know from experience that everyone does things on their own timeline. Your time might have come and you might actually be looking for help. Unfortunately, I cannot fix it all for you even though I want to so badly. I can only tell you my own story and hope that it will help some of you and serve as a cautionary tale for others…

Years ago, I was this way – always busy, even before it was trendy. It was my way to escape the hustle and bustle of my own head. Then with time and complete disregard for my health and body, I started getting one chronic condition after another. At first, the signs were subtle and it did not look like much, but the more time passed, the worse it got. It is like my body was screaming at me and I was refusing to listen, until it got louder and louder, so I could not ignore it anymore. Last year, I reached my breaking point, I was bedbound and it was like I was being punished – unable to do anything, robbed of my constant busyness and forced to just stand there and contemplate everything I have done wrong.

It turned out that I was suffering from a condition that not many doctors understand – CFS/ME caused by Epstein Barr Reactivation. I was going from doctor to doctor and they were either disregarding me completely, or telling me that there was nothing they could do. Thankfully, I have private health insurance which allowed me to continue my search for answers. Not many people have this privilege and they are often left to fend for themselves and live with this horrible disease without much help and support. I wish I could change it all for them, because everyone deserves help and support, and our current health system is, unfortunately, failing lots of people. Hopefully, one day I will be able to.

I was lucky enough to find a doctor that understood enough about this disease to be able to get me on the right track of managing the condition. There is currently no cure, but with the right support I believe that you can improve enough to live as normal of a life as possible. I will not get into too much detail about my treatment right now, but if any of you are interested to know more, please let me know.

I am sharing this now, because being ill with this disease is the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. It proved to be much scarier than facing all of my demons and feeling left out from the crowd. To this day I am terrified of this disease, of the ups and downs that come along with it, of it coming back with a vengeance one day and not being able to get out of bed again.

Was the busyness worth it? No, not at all. No amount of success, social acceptance or escapism is worth the disability that comes with chronic illness. Obviously, something like that will not happen to everyone, but the sheer volume of pressure and exhaustion that we put on ourselves is bound to hit us somewhere…

So, this holiday season please take better care of yourself. Practice a bit of self-love and acceptance. Look yourself in the mirror and be grateful for everything that is perfect and not so perfect, thank your body for getting you through another day effortlessly even when you make it so hard for it to do its job. Allow yourself to just sit down, sip a cup of tea and read a book without the need to validate your downtime. If you need to ditch those family gatherings and just stay home, wrapped up in a blanket, sobbing at Christmas movies – that’s what you should do! Allow yourself to do what makes you happy. Society, your family, your friends – they are not the ones living your life, you are and you will be forced to live with it in the good and in the bad times. Allow yourself to enjoy this break and do not just rush from place to place, actually be mindful in the moment and just be yourself, do whatever your heart desires. The world won’t end, I promise!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Lots of love xx

P.S. – If you want to hear more from me (and more regularly), you can follow me on Instagram and TikTok @somebodysdiaries See you there! xx

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