It is midnight and I just finished taking a bath. I experienced a really bad crash a few days ago and spent the last two days in bed waiting it out. I am unsure what caused this most recent crash. I have been taking it very easy here but something zapped. A fuse blew. Bye bye Mary. The bath I just took was the first one I’ve taken in four days. I know that this is disgusting. I am someone who prefers to shower everyday, do my hair and makeup everyday, and wear clothes that are coordinated like the commercials tell me; transitional outfits from day to night! It’s no secret that my frequency of showers has lessened in the last two years. But when the simple act of getting up to blow your nose, or reaching for something that is more than an arm’s length away and you return to your position panting, out of breath, heart racing, body weighed down…it sort of leaves showering out of the question for the time being. It’s impossible to stand that long. This is why when I do muster up the energy to get clean, I take a bath, which requires a lot of energy in itself. But I take a sick person bath. I use a water bottle to pour water over my head so I don’t have to sit in weird positions and once I’m in, I’m in for a good hour. I don’t know why, but I often start to feel like a human being late at night. It’s like the clouds part just for a moment. So while I get that small window, I take a bath and tend to personal hygiene; Brush my teeth as hard as I can, because I don’t know if I will have the energy to do those things tomorrow. If today is any indication, then probably not. Monty sleeps, raising his head every now and then at a noise I make, then goes back to dog dream world.
I know this all sounds pretty grim, and it is. This is the ugly part of being sick. The part that people who know me socially don’t ever see. The part that sometimes, like yesterday, become too heavy for me to bear. Not just physically, but mentally. All of the sudden, it weighs too much. I feel stuck. It’s all piled onto my chest to where even my breathing feels labored. I call my mom and she walks me through it. I let the dark thoughts come and leave. They are just thoughts, fleeting and insignificant. I say “I will not lay down and die today.” And then I write it in my notebook. And then I lay down. But I don’t die. (Spoiler alert!)
I survive. Suddenly, I don’t want to write poetry about being sick. I don’t want to find the wisdom in the pain. I don’t want to ask what the lesson is and find how I am a better person because this situation forced me to dig deeper into consciousness. Which is true, it did. But some nights like tonight, I’m just ready for it be over. In my bedridden state the last few days, I’ve been researching the very bizarre and twisted history of this illness, and it’s surprising to say the least. Tragic and appalling to say the most.
I want to know why the National Institute of Health has continuously allotted such low sums towards the research of CFS. For 2012 it has allocated $6 million, ranking it 220 out of 232 diseases. You can find it at the bottom of the list underneath Psoriasis ($10 million) and Hay Fever ($7 million). To give some context, similar illnesses like MS were given $121 million and Lupus, $105 million, but have less prevalence and a similar level of disability. As a result, countless studies and research efforts in the way of CFS have been put on hold or simply terminated citing funding issues.
I want to know why the Center for Disease Control has repeatedly ignored, overlooked, and downplayed this illness for a quarter-century–An illness that the head of the CFS branch himself said left patients as functionally impaired as someone with AIDS or Breast Cancer. The agency not only minimized it’s detriment by calling the thing “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” (they might as well have called it Lazy Ass Tired Folk Disease) it’s now been documented that the CDC routinely diverted money intended for CFS research to other projects. This is all documented in the book Osler’s Web and this article by David Tuller from November of 2011. A 1999 report from The Department of Health and Human Services found that between 1995 and 1998, at least $8 million was charged to the CFS tab but rerouted to other projects and another $4 million could not be accounted for.
I want to know why the most promising research of CFS is being funded and executed by private institutions and donors, like the Whittemore Peterson Institute or at academic institutions like Columbia and the University of Miami…no where near the CDC, the NIH, or its constituents.
This isn’t just about me or just about other sick people with this illness. Contested illnesses like this cost the US billions of dollars annually in lost productivity and depletes healthcare resources. Less than 1/5 of patients with CFS work full-time, and more than half receive disability benefits. The estimated cost of lost productivity from CFS annually is $18 billion. Just over two years ago I worked full time, spent my money, paid my taxes and I was happy to do it. Now I am unable to work and unable to receive or afford health insurance. My doctor has suggested I apply for disability. I am 28. I do not want to continue taking 25 pills a day. I do not want to live off disability. I would actually like to go to work and be a contributing asset to the country. But I know that in order for these things to happen, the dialogue has to change. There are actually people and doctors out there who don’t believe in this illness, as though it were fucking Big Foot.
I know that getting mad and pointing fingers won’t really help me out tonight. I have accepted my life with this illness. I will be OK whether things change or not. I have found ways to be happy given my circumstances and some days are harder than others. I guess you’re catching me on a hard day. I have a family who supports me and was lucky to find a doctor that is a leading researcher of this illness, although her clinic at this point is barely staying afloat. But not everyone has what I do. I have received so many emails from people whose doctors and/or families have dismissed them, not believed them, or just written them off as depressed. This has to change.
I don’t know what the next step is, I just felt the need to get this stuff out in my little corner of the internet. Maybe the right set of eyes will befall on this one day and some real change can take place. Maybe nothing will happen, in which case, nothing was really lost. I’ll be in bed either way. The thing is, I am not a little kid writing to Santa Clause–This is change that is actually possible. I think there are far more important matters in the world than CFS/ME research and I look forward to the day when this is no longer my cause. I know this country can do better, and I have not ever lost hope that with the right people and minds at work, this is something we can fix, even if it’s after I’m gone.
Health, Happiness, Change.