From the ‘Daily Telegraph’, Lifestyle section, 30 January 2016.
Dear Graham Norton: I have M.E. and can’t stop being jealous of friends
I’m in my mid-30s, and I have M.E. I’ve been ill for many years; I had to give up my career and return to live with my parents. Many friends have fallen by the wayside; I have tried not to let myself be too jealous of the ones I have left as they get on with their lives. But now my closest friend has texted me to say she is going to move to California with her husband. I always wanted to work abroad, particularly in the US. I have found this lovely news for her so terribly awful for me. I’ve had some of the happiest times in my life with her. It feels like the last link to my old life, before I was ill, is about to be gone, and I’ll be all alone in my terrible reality.
I haven’t replied to her text – because I feel that I’ve reached the end of my ability to watch friends live a life I can’t. I should keep going – but I can’t. I’m writing because I don’t know how to keep being the ill person left behind. How can I talk about her move, look at her photos, knowing what my life is now?
At the moment your life is extremely difficult. No one is denying that. A weaker body is bound to affect your mind, and summoning up the strength to put a positive spin on things becomes harder and harder. I’m sure you are getting the medical treatment you need but depression can often be associated with conditions such as yours, so make sure you are talking to someone about that alongside your M.E. Overall I would advise you to focus on your own life rather than the lives you see being lived around you or online. Measure your good days and bad ones against how you felt yesterday morning.
Other people’s lives are not there to be compared with the one you are living. Your friend isn’t going to California to make you feel worse. She is simply living her life as you must live your very different one. Guard against believing everything you see and hear online. Scrolling though Facebook can make you think that everyone else is spending every waking moment laughing with friends over drinks or lounging on a beach with a cocktail and a lover. None of it is real. Those people also wake up tired and depressed. They hate their job, their boiler broke, their partner cheated on them.
I hope your friend has a wonderful new life in California, but it won’t be easy. Starting jobs and making friends while trying to maintain a marriage will be extremely stressful. Of course she should go, but as you wave her off remember that all lives are challenging and difficult, not just yours. I would never suggest you do something as glib as count your blessings, but when you feel at your lowest ebb remember that you do have parents who love you, friends who think of you often, and, unlike many people with M.E., no children or partner to worry about. I sincerely hope that your condition improves soon and that you can resume the life you thought you would have. I know you think all your friends have moved on with their lives without you, but this isn’t a race. This may be small consolation, but when things get better, you will savour the good times in a way that no one else can imagine.