A fatigued fresher
By Emily Felton
9 out of 10
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One of my best remembered primary school memories is of a teacher explaining that suffering is a natural part of life and that it inevitably happens to everyone. I vividly remember insisting to myself that my life will be the exception to this rule and that I will never experience anything unpleasant. Of course, I was wrong. But the suffering I have experienced over the last year due to post viral fatigue has left me happier and stronger than ever, instead of bitter that my childhood naivety was proven wrong.
The first year of university is meant to be the best and most fun year of your life, however mine didn’t exactly match my expectation. During the first term, I started getting really dizzy and exhausted to the point where I would be sitting in a lecture and be thinking “How am I going to stand up without somebody helping me?” After trying to play down my symptoms by persuading myself that it is almost an obligation for a fresher to be tired, it got to the stage where I could no longer ignore how I felt. After a few blood tests and different doctor appointments, I got diagnosed with Glandular Fever and later my doctor found out I also had Post Viral Fatigue, which has lasted months and months after the Glandular Fever left my system and that has been the main battle I have relentlessly been fighting. I was distraught. My envisions of all the fun I was going to have during second term suddenly turned into fear about my health, especially since no doctor could tell me how long I would be ill for.
I thought I would carry on at university like nothing was wrong, however after a few weeks, I realised I could no longer fight this illusion and I needed to come home to recover. The first few months were the hardest of all. My body was too weak to shower, so I had to have baths. My body was too weak to stand the two minutes of brushing my teeth so I had to sit on the side of the bath. My body was too weak to walk alone so I had to hold onto someone for support. The dizziness didn’t stop for months and the room would spin to the point where I couldn’t even focus on watching tv. I would lie in bed wishing I would fall asleep as quickly as possible so I could finally have a break from the constant feeling of dizziness and light headedness.
After this, I was physically slighter stronger however emotionally, I was struggling. I have always been labelled a positive and happy person, but I’ve never felt more distant from myself. I love more than anything to go out with my friends, and just be hyper and crazy but initially even spending an hour with my friends when they came round exhausted me. Being positive and happy used to come so naturally to me, but this was the first time I had to constantly fight against tears and always remember how much I have to appreciate. I would feel incredibly guilty any time I cried over my illness and missing out at uni as I knew that there are so many people who are enduring much more suffering than I could ever imagine. So I decided to think of five good things that happened to me each day when I was in bed to keep my spirits elevated and prevent me from feeling sorry for myself.
This all sounds very depressing and that was not my aim of writing this. I wanted to share everything that this experience has taught me and the lessons I will take with me for the rest of my life. I missed out on half the year of university and I had to cancel all my summer plans and have weekly hospital sessions with my doctor. However, the last three months I went back to university for my second year and although I am still not fully recovered, the last few months have been the one of the best periods of my life. Over the year of being ill I realised that I really do have the best family and friends in the world. They could not have been more supportive and it is the biggest blessing I could ever ask for to know that the people in your life will really be there for you. Also during the worst stages of my illness, I thought back to how stressed I was for GCSEs and A Levels. I had an opportunity to take pause of my life and sit back and reflect on what is really important. Most people are so focused on work and then their careers that they forget what really matters and sacrifice friendships and fun for a better grade or job. I promised myself that I will always work hard but never to the point of getting so stressed that I don’t stop to appreciate that getting the top mark in the essay, or the best job, is no way near as important as feeling healthy and happy. I am no longer that naïve child who doesn’t believe that I will struggle, but I am now a strong adult who is no longer scared of anything life will throw at me.
To anyone else that is also suffering from post viral fatigue, I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel. You really don’t know what you have until its gone, and now I finally feel better, I hope I never forget what it’s like to feel ill so I can truly appreciate the amazing feeling it is to feel healthy, that so many take for granted.
This recovery story is in categories: Post viral fatigue syndrome