So I know a girl called Claire. She's 15 and unfortunately suffers from multiple serious health concerns. Like many of us, Claire is struggling a bit with the idea of needing to slow down, to not push through. She's been told by doctors she's at risk of developing M.E if she continues to push at the rate that she is.
This story is eerily similar to mine, although no one ever told me M.E was a thing - we had no idea this could happen. I was 16 when I became dangerously unwell with multiple health problems, and I tried to push through. I pushed far too hard, and now I have M.E. Maybe I would have developed it eventually anyway, but I genuinely believe if someone had told me back then that this was a possibility my life would be very different now.
I know many people develop M.E after a virus, and I'm not trying to say that everyone that has it "did it to themselves", and I'm definitely not saying it's always preventable. But I feel like I have to at least try to provide Claire with as much information as possible so she can make informed choices on how she moves forward. Our stories are too similar not to try.
Here's what I wish someone had told me, here's what I'd like to share with Claire. I hope it's maybe helpful...
The situation you're in sucks. It sucks so much. I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. Your body doesn't work as it should, and I know how frustrating that is. You're a naturally ambitious person, and you want to try your best at things. But right now, I'm sorry, your best just isn't sustainable anymore. You're too good for the body you're in. But maybe it won't always be like that.
There is absolutely no shame in slowing down, pressing pause, taking a breath. We're always told to keep going, to try, to not stop. But actually that's some really crap advice. Sometimes stopping is necessary, and it's so very brave of you to stop. It takes guts, it's scary. I know. Stopping doesn't mean you can't ever start again, it's actually giving yourself potentially a better chance of being able to keep going further down the line.
You're young, and you have big plans. Having to hit pause on those plans doesn't seem like an option, definitely not one you want anyways. But I can assure you that pushing yourself so far is simply just not worth it. I'm not saying that out the blue, it's not coming from thin air, it's coming from years of experience. Please, be gentle with yourself. You are worth so much more.
I know it feels like there's a timescale for things, that you need to be doing things Now. But actually that timescale is just made up. I don't know who thought it was a good idea, but they're an idiot. You're allowed to do things at your own pace. If it's a different pace to those around you then so be it. You're learning so much that you don't even realise, directly because of the struggle you're facing. You're growing into someone that you should be proud of.
I know it feels like you can keep going, and maybe for now you can. But there will come a point where it goes too far. Because there's this thing called M.E that can hit people, smack them right in the face out the blue. Rest won't make it go away then. But rest might help now.
You can give yourself the best possible chance. I know it feels like you're not in control of what you're body is doing and what it's capable of. But this is where you take that control back. This is where you put yourself first. You're in control of how you deal with this. That's not to say you'll always have it together, no one expects that of you. Yell about it if you want to, cry about it, that's allowed. You don't have to pretend. I know this isn't what you wanted, this isn't how it was meant to go.
But please try not to be too hard on yourself. Feel no shame, no guilt. You're in a shitty situation you didn't ask for. But you're going to show it who's boss. Not in the way you maybe think, in a quieter but all the more powerful way. Resting is fighting. You are fighting this, you're not giving in to it, you're not giving up. You're doing the opposite. You're giving your future self the best chance. She deserves that, don't you think? She'll thank you for it, whether it works or not, she'll thank you for trying.
I'm not saying it definitely won't happen to you if you change things. I wish I could give you that guarantee, but unfortunately not. Either way, you have people that support you. All you can do is try. And I know how much you like to try your best at things. Try your best at this, no matter how frustrating it gets. This is something you can keep trying your best at, and in time you'll learn more about your body and what it needs. It gets less confusing. I'm routing for you.