In the driving seat

I passed my driving test last week so here is a bunch of clichéd metaphors about driving and personal growth!

One of the things about having M.E., or any other chronic condition/disability, that people often forget about is the way it steals your independence. I was diagnosed aged 16, just at that point at which you’re becoming more independent and suddenly I became as dependent as a young child again. If I managed to get out of the house I couldn’t even be trusted to cross a road on my own because my perception and reactions were so muddled by brain fog that I constantly had to be pulled out of the way of fast moving traffic!

I couldn’t stand up long enough to cook myself a meal or lift a kettle, I struggled to use public transport because it would stress me out and sometimes I even needed help dressing. Being so dependent is demeaning and frustrating, it also makes you extra anxious when the time comes to start being more independent. When I first moved away from home I was anxious all the time and became obsessive about having routines that I thought would mean I’d keep on top of everything and didn’t overdo it. However I constantly overdid it because I set myself ridiculously high standards about maintaining my flat! I feel sorry for my flatmates, it was pretty hard to live with someone who was so rigid about stuff like “Its Friday afternoon so I’ve got to mop the floors now!” In my defence, they did live in a sparklingly clean home!

Whenever I got ill, which was a lot, I fell apart because I wasn’t at home with my support network. I was terrified of being alone when I was ill and I was constantly ringing up my parents to come and rescue me. After two years I gave up and moved back in with my parents. It was a blow to my fragile sense of independence but it allowed me to rest a little (change down a gear!) and it has enabled me to recover more. However it is very easy to get comfortable being the passenger in your life and not taking responsibility for it.

When you get diagnosed with a chronic illness there are two paths you can take. One is to accept that it is never going to get better and let it dictate your life. The other is to keep trying to live the life you want to lead. I’ve tried to take the latter path. It hasn’t always been easy, there have been many times when I’ve been paralysed in bed thinking that maybe I should just accept that I’m never going to achieve my goals and give in to the illness. Fortunately I’ve always had a support network around me that have gently pulled me out of those dark places.

So I keep trying. I’m still trying to get a degree and now I only have one year to go, I’m still trying to get into the career I want and now I’ve got a relevant internship, I kept trying to pass my driving test and now I finally have!

Driving around on my own now has been an amazing but terrifying experience. It is liberating but it’s also a massive responsibility. There is no longer someone sat next to me being an extra pair of eyes and sharing that responsibility, now it’s all on me. I’m terrified but I’m pushing through and every time I make a journey on my own and no one gets hurt I gain another little grain of confidence!

Ever since I got ill, and probably before then, I have played a victim narrative: bad stuff happens to me and I’m no good at anything. This has made me extremely passive and anxious about everything. In the past year I’ve started to let go of that narrative. It’s hard because I’ve been playing it for so long but I’m catching myself and stopping myself more. Now I’m seeing that good stuff does happen to me and I deserve it, that I am good at things and I should be proud. I am finally in the driver’s seat, taking on the responsibility on my own and praising myself when I do things well. I’m really excited about moving away from home now and feel I can look after myself completely. I can’t wait to start exploring that feeling of independence in a new place. I feel confident that I can take on more responsibility now because I am more assertive about my needs and limitations, but also my abilities.


Is there an area of your life where you are being passive?

Is it time for you to start taking responsibility to improve it?


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