Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It's been fun driving to work this week as we've had dense fog each morning which lasts until lunchtime. I was trying to find a webcam photo to demonstrate the fogginess but all I could find was this one of our new south-western bypass; now if that's not stimulating viewing I don't know what is.

The more importantly foggy place is, however, my brain. I don't know who first used the term 'brain fog' to describe what happens in a ME/CFS suffers head on a bad day - as I'm sure lots of sufferers, including myself, came up with it independently. It is so hard to describe the symptom, except as trying to 'think through fog' - nothing resolves easily, every perception and thought process takes a conscious effort and the world seems to be tilted at a slightly off angle.

Writing about 'brain fog' reminds me of what for me has been the other major consequence of living with a chronic illness... losing the ability to be light-hearted. Even when I'm having a good spell I often have to consciously remind myself that things are going well, to smile, laugh, make love with my Husband; to not stay caught up on the 'survival' mindset that suffering generates. I'm sure this feeling isn't restricted to ME/CFS suffers, or those with other chronic illnesses. It think it is a mindset problem that probably is an issue for anyone who has had a prolonged period of stress (or even a very intense short period of stress).

When I was little we had hundreds (literally) of films taped off the TV. I think my Dad had done some work for AGFA and as a result ended up with dozens of free VHS tapes. There were certain (fairly random for children of the 80s) films that my sister and I used to watch compulsively: The Slipper and the Rose, Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Railway Children, Anne of Green Gables (mini series) etc. We also had Pollyanna, the version with Hayley Mills. Pollyanna is an indefatigably cheerful and optimistic child being raised by a rather stern Aunt after her father's death. When ever she was feeling down or trying to cheer someone up she would play the 'glad game'. She would always manage to find something to be glad about no matter the situation. That was until she (I think) falls out of a tree and breaks her back. Then she's not so glad for a while... until the town that she has charmed, charms her back for a classic Hollywood ending.

I have to say, I've never come across a true 'Pollyanna' in real life although I'm sure they are out there someone - probably get their lights knocked out on a regular basis for always being so damn cheerful. But maybe we (and by we, I mean I) should take a leaf out of Pollyanna's book and play the glad game once in a while - because no matter how crappy life gets we should always be able to find something to be glad about. Maybe that's the only way for me to re-instate my ability to be light-hearted.


Lex Ham Rand said...

I hate to say this is fascinating, but I am quite ignorant about M.E. I knew someone who had CFS in the early 90's - she has, for the most part, recovered (or learned to cope).

I Googled ME/CFS and found lots of information - it appears that ME is somewhat more clinically "recognized" as a chronic fatigue post-infection.

Is there a link to depression (serotonin re-uptake and all of that)? My wife and I have several family members who suffer/have suffered from chronic and sometimes severe depression (my maternal great-grandfather even committed suicide.) Depression seems to often have physical side effects (chronic pain mostly) but not the kind of chronic fatigue described for ME/CFS.

Your attitude (at least on blog) seems quite positive given the stark reality of your day to day life. I'm quite impressed with your emotional fortitude.

You must get that PhD! I am taking courses one at a time - quite manageable for workload (and I dare say that having two children - a girl 11 and boy 14 - is pretty energy-draining in an of itself.)

New blog post on my higher ed policy blog today. Big state constitutional amendment proposal on the Michigan state ballot today which would disallow any form of affirmative action.

Is there any form of "affirmative action" in the UK for historically under-represented groups with regard to university admission? Or is that a peculiarly American invention as a post-Civil War post-slavery ameliorative initiative?

AdventuringJen said...

I think the thing with the glad game is that you have to believe the silver lining you come up with which is probably the challenging part. It is possible to make up silver linings fairly easily but not necessarily to believe them. Hmm. But I hope you succeed in being light hearted. It is something I'm trying to learn being here in a way - everyone is so much more laid back and I keep thinking "ooh, I can't do XYZ" but only because I haven't analysed it from every angle, planned for weeks to do it etc etc etc. Glad game all round. Hope it is a good week. We are away this weekend but skype soon