After getting pretty emotional whilst writing my previous post, I thought it was best to have a little break. But now I’m back, feeling reasonably good and ready to write the more positive side of this story.
Without the academic part of my life, I had to find something to replace it. I was daunted at the prospect but I knew there had to be something out there for me. I knew there had to be more to me than studying and grades. I knew I’d get there and feel complete again. With my concentration and memory almost totally shot, I needed easy-going, relaxed hobbies; maybe something to tap into my more creative side. And with that, here’s a list that will hopefully shed some more light on this ‘new me’ and possibly give you some inspiration and ideas to help you on your journey 🙂
Okay, so not everyone can get out into the big, wide world and capture things on camera. But for me, it’s been a huge part of my life since being ill. I got into it beforehand, but I didn’t really hone my skills until after my M.E diagnosis. Even with just leaving the house for half an hour once a week, I might have been able to go into our communal garden and photograph some plants. Or some wildlife if I was lucky. Since moving to a house, I can easily watch the birds through our patio doors; catching photos of them in flight or feeding from the bird table. Photography essentially allows me complete creative freedom. I can choose whatever subject I like, whether that’s landscapes, flowers, insects or wildlife. I have control over what path I take with it and I love that. To feel in control of something again was wonderful. It really did, and still does, make a huge difference. I’ve even had online friends tell me in the past that they live vicariously through all my photos; they feel like they were there with me, enjoying the moment in real life. And that was something that encouraged me even more. I’ve known so many chronically ill individuals who are bedbound, housebound, wheelchair bound etc, and to know that my newfound hobby was helping them with their struggles? That spurred me on. So not only was I doing it for myself, I was doing it for others. Talk about silver linings, eh?
Right at the start of my illness, I struggled immensely with the isolation and lack of contact with my peers. After seeking out some online forums, I made some incredible new friends; all of whom were in the same or a very similar situation to myself. Those I got closest to were then more than online friends. We became pen pals. I purchased a ton of cute stationery (Paperchase being a classic favourite) and got cracking. My hand would hurt. I’d have to take breaks. Sometimes I couldn’t reply to letters for days, even weeks. But I knew that the person on the other end would understand and patiently await my reply. There was no pressure at all. I was writing these letters and cards because I wanted to. I wanted to know how my friends were doing. I wanted to be able to cheer them up on a particularly rough day. And admittedly I did want to show off my new stickers, cards and funky letter sets. It gave me something to look forward to. At one point, I would receive a letter or more every single day. With hindsight, I can say that my pen pals helped me a hell of a lot more than I realised at the time. I began to feel less lonely and out of touch with people my own age. I’d found others in the same shitty place as me and we knew we could rely on each other. We had an instant common ground and connection. It was wonderful.
A New Focus
So this is probably the biggest and most important change for me. From a young age, I’d always been career focused. And even though the job itself would change (vet, doctor, fashion designer, forensic scientist, midwife), the same determination and goal was still there. When the possibility of this was thrown into question, I didn’t know how to react at first. As I said before, I was lost and didn’t know who I was or would be in the future. I had to find something else for my busy mind to concentrate on and work towards. And one day, it just sort of clicked. I realised that having a career wasn’t everything. I also realised that there was so much more to life than qualifications and grades. A lot of you will have always known this, but I hadn’t. It was all I’d ever wanted and been good at my whole life; learning, getting top grades and succeeding with it. But now I saw the light. I saw all the new opportunities out there for me. I had fresh goals and dreams to put into place for my future. I could do something with my creative writing and/or photography. I could work with animals. I could start a family. All these life events and routes that I’d never thought about before suddenly became very real and exciting prospects. I wasn’t all about a high-flying, high intensity job anymore. I knew I could be happy another way
Plenty of you out there are likely to be avid readers or gamers; or both if you’re anything like me. I’d been a bookworm as a child but slacked, quite predictably, in my teenage years. I still had a few books in my bedroom, but they would often go untouched for months. But once my sleep problems appeared, I found my old friends again. Back then, it was taking me 2-3 hours to get to sleep at night, regardless of when I went to bed. I didn’t always want to watch TV, so I remember picking up my copy of The Order of The Phoenix. Despite being daunted by the sheer size of it, I hunkered down for a nice reading session. And that was the moment the obsession began anew. I’d fill those couple of hours prior to slumber with make-believe worlds and fictional adventures. I was escaping from reality without leaving the comfort of my bed. When I was eventually put on melatonin to aid my sleep, I was getting to sleep within half an hour of my head hitting the pillow. So instead of my escapism happening at night, I had to move it to the day. Whilst my concentration was dire when it came to learning and retaining facts, I found fiction to be much easier to grasp. Maybe it was simply because I was doing it for pleasure as opposed to a grade or important test. Frankly I didn’t really care. I just loved my books and that was that. The same thing applies to gaming. I’ve played god knows how many different titles in my 25 years but they just keep getting better. Fallout 4, Skyrim, GTA V, Dragon Age Inquisition; these are my recent favourites. I found them all to be incredibly immersive. I’d simply load them up and get lost in the stories. Plus the violent side of some games were extremely good stress relief :’) It probably sounds quite lame to some of you, but when I was able to do a lot less than now, video games were a brilliant escape. It was another case of me being in control. I still had power over something, even when I didn’t have it over my own health. And yes there’s been countless occasions when I’ve been addicted and lost track of time. I admit that it’s a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand, I’m filling my days with something I love and can escape into. But on the other hand, you can easily forget about other things and the people around you. Moderation, moderation, moderation is my answer to that.
I think that might be it for me today. I can sense a headache looming under the surface and I don’t want to make it too angry. I’m not sure how insightful this post actually was to be honest. Be sure to inform me if you felt it was though! It would be great to see that my effort wasn’t in vain. And of course, I totally understand that hobbies such as these aren’t feasible for everyone, which upsets me a lot. And this wasn’t intended to make anyone feel disappointed or angry at their limitations. It was merely my way of saying how I personally coped, grew and made the most of my own personal abilities. And maybe it will give some of my readers a sense of hope for their future. I’m writing this blog post 7+ years after initially getting ill and I wasn’t totally sure I’d ever get here. My newly discovered hobbies are one of many factors that have kept me sane over the past few years. And most importantly, I’ve gained the knowledge that, wherever you are in life and whatever your strengths, there’s something out there for you to embrace, pursue and excel at; it might just take you a little while to find it.
Peace and love to all. Kelsey over and out x