Labels

It’s taken me eighteen months to get to this point. Eighteen months of feeling exhausted every day and not having adequate words to explain why. Eighteen months of doctors appointments and blood tests and going round in circles. Eighteen months of waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for someone to tell you something which you worked out for yourself a long time ago. And here we are. My fatigue now has a label and a box to fit itself into. I have been officially diagnosed, or re-diagnosed if you want to be accurate, with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME.

This is what I expected. Yet it feels unexpectedly strange. Diagnoses open doors and help you to understand and explain the situation to those around you. They show you that you are not the only one to feel this way, that there are whole communities of people who have been there and can empathise. They give you clues to treatments and avenues to explore.

And I know this is progress and a step in the right direction. You have to jump this hurdle on the road to getting better. I should be relieved that I have some answers.

But these words feel heavier than I thought they would. Somehow at the same time they manage to be both not enough and too much. They feel too small to describe what it feels like to be exhausted every day for so long, to sum up the heaviness and weakness that weighs you down. Yet these labels also feel big and scary, as they try and define my future. They bring with them a fear about what might happen next. And they remind me of my early childhood, a time of illness and missing out. I have regained a label that I spent a decade trying to shed completely.

I am aware just how easily a label can become part of your identity. It could so easily become both an excuse for all my failings and a shield to hold the world at bay. I could use it as a reason to make my dreams smaller. I could let myself accept that life will be about existing rather than thriving. I could let this define not only who I am now, but who I can be in the future.

The truth is this diagnosis is just a part of the experience of being me right now. This is an obstacle in my path, rather than being the road I am walking on. On the surface this may be the thing people know early on about me, being the girl who is always tired. But in the complex tapestry of my life, this is just a single strand, albeit a frustrating one. My character and identity will always be rooted elsewhere, in the truths of who I am and who I was made by. With an eternal perspective I can see that these troubles are temporary.

Trusting God is a decision rather than a feeling. It is choosing to believe that God is in control, even when your circumstances do not suggest it. I know my feet are firmly anchored to a God who is bigger than my circumstances. And whilst I do not know what the future holds, I know He does. I will choose each day to trust in his good plans for me.

After all labels are just words, some of the thousand of words that will be used to describe us in our lifetimes. A human life is far too beautifully messy to ever be adequately described in words alone.

All things considered, not much has changed, I am still me. An individual unique in strengths and weaknesses, beauty and flaws, hopes and fears. I am a person who needs other people, perhaps now a little more than before. I was made by a God who knows me inside out and loves me more than I can comprehend. My life is ever in His hands. My story is still being written, and whilst fatigue may be a chapter, I won’t let it be what the book is about.

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