The Hidden Struggle Of Being Young And Chronically Ill

Nervous System


By Bethany Freeman in The Mighty.


I’m a 19 year old university student in semester break. It’s a Saturday morning. I woke up dehydrated and nauseas, absolutely exhausted (I didn’t sleep until around 4 a.m.), sore and feeling foggy. I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling – many other young university students will be waking up feeling ill after a big Friday night. The difference is that last night, I stayed in. I drank a cup of tea, quietly read, and then lay in bed for hours begging my body to sleep. I didn’t wake up feeling like this because of alcohol or partying. I woke up feeling like this because of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

I have had this illness since I was 16. In many ways its severe fatigue, pain and insomnia have become a normal part of my life. But as I got older, and grew more independent, I realized just how dearly you pay when you are forced to give up your youth and live the life of being ill instead of someone just discovering the magic of the world. You pay by getting just a little taste of what’s out there – of love, of parties, of travel, of hiking, of working, of living – and then being forced to give it up before you even try it, before you even have any memories to treasure. I’m forced to lie in bed, wondering if I’ll be able to finish this uni semester as the half an hour travel time takes its toll on my energy, while I scroll through Facebook feeds of friends who are touring Europe, volunteering, dancing and starting their lives.


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