This was my "resume" before chronic fatigue...graduated with honors from high school, headed to University of Colorado at Boulder, where I volunteered with a second grade classroom and got schooled in chess. Then left CU mid first semester sophomore year when I had chronic strep and came home to getting my tonsils out at age 19. Then, I took a semester off of college to recover from surgery where I was the go to responsible house / baby sitter for extended stay get aways for parents. Headed to UW-Milwaukee majored in African American Studies and Psychology, worked a part time job and volunteered for a variety of causes. I graduated on time due to taking summer school classes, immediately worked for the service organization Public Allies as an Economic Development Coordinator in one of the most deprived areas in the city. I was awarded a "Proclamation" by the Mayor of Milwaukee for a day in my Honor for the work I did at Midtown Neighborhood Association. I can't remember what day it was...perhaps July 15th...but my friend Brian always teases me about it. Then I worked for a good friend at her furniture business. However my time at Midtown stayed with me and I became interested in the connection that our environment played on our health after watching a deprived economic area be plagued with preventable illnesses. I took my first step by going to Massage Therapy school, opened my own business, and used that anatomy lesson to go back to school and take pre-med prerequisites. All the while I had an insanely active social and volunteer life. I traveled all across the country to visit friends, was in too many weddings to count, drank, laughed had break ups and break downs but all in all life was fantastic.
And that is just an outline...well this is the thing about Chronic Fatigue it takes your stellar resume and everything you identified yourself with and turns it upside down and inside out so fast you wonder where the hell you went. So here is my current resume for the cynics or those that don't know me...40 year old who lived with her boyfriend for 11 years, never married and just figured out perhaps it wasn't working... She lives in this home that was completely renovated. I heard her dad bank rolled it, along with her country club membership and condo in Phoenix. She never goes out to dinner anymore...something about some food allergies (sarcasm) hasn't worked in years yet carries great purses and jewelry. Panic attacks at times so bad she can't get even drive to Madison - I even heard she had one so bad that a plane had to go back from the runway and escort her out. What a drama queen. She needed to walk up 14 flights of stairs to see her new niece since she is so claustrophobic but I thought she has chronic fatigue - how could she do the stairs then...travels half the year for some "treatments" but when I see her she looks perfectly fine. Went to "medical school" but never even practiced...and she is crazy high maintenance. Sign me up!
While at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, the professor for my medical ethics course walked in the door and before introducing himself said to our class, "my mother has been married 5 times..." He then he paused and waited for all of us to come to our various conclusions about a woman who had been married five times...and we all did. The things is we all probably had different conclusions none of which were correct, perhaps if you pooled our collective judgement we would somewhere along the line come up with the truth. Lady justice, not always blind.
This is what a chronic illness that leaves no marks gives you - compassion. That old saying that you have heard since the second you were in pre-school - don't judge a book by its cover - well I don't. I don't always succeed, but knowing how I "look" on the outside and "feel" on the inside, it allows you that delay in judgement because you know what it feels like for others to not have a clue. Chronic fatigue forces you to get out of the habit of defining yourself by what you do and that is a difficult pill to swallow. There are times I reminisce about that old resume and think...wow wonder what she would be doing now; if not for being this "girl interrupted." Then you snap out of it and force yourself to stop living by the definition of what you do or did and focus on who you are and what that means to those around you. You pull it together and even though it feels like you are this completely different person and at times you have nothing to give, you know that is a lie. You are still there, you just don't look as good on paper, but perhaps you are better.