Julie Rehmeyer's 'Through the Shadowlands'
Writer Never Give Up talks about Julie Rehmeyer's new book "Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand" and shares an interview with Julie ...
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Musings

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS Discussion' started by David Jackson, Aug 2, 2016.

  1. David Jackson

    David Jackson Senior Member

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    A very brief background: have had CFS for five-and-a-half years, was getting very close to severe for quite some time. Was bed bound, now just house bound. Lost: wife, friends, community. Currently improving.

    This morning I woke up at 4:30am from a dream that I was back in high school. As I lay there, I began musing about what I used to be like, and what advice I would give to my younger self, if I could somehow have the chance to impart some. After only a few moments of contemplation, though, I became so disgusted with the material that I had to work with, that I thought:

    “This fool has so much he needs to learn that I wouldn’t be able to teach him everything in just one sitting. Better for him to get sick and learn from all of the adversity that is coming his way.”

    It then occurred to me then, that, although I could have told my younger self how to avoid getting sick, I wouldn’t have done it, opting instead for him to learn the lessons much more completely through suffering and experience. The suffering would do him a lot of good, I thought.

    In a flash, realised that this is the closest that I’ve ever come in terms of feeling grateful for CFS, and wanted to share that realisation with the community here.

    I knew that I had heard something like this before, so I opened Robert E. Howard’s novel, Conan the Barbarian, and found the passage that I sought. I’ll leave you with this quote. The following excerpt is Conan’s father speaking to a young Conan, regarding swords, life and the Riddle of Steel:

    “The heart of a man is like a piece of unworked iron. It must be hammered by adversity and forged by suffering and the challenges flung by the thoughtless gods, nigh unto the point of breaking. It must be purified and shaped on the anvil of despair and loss.
    “Only when your heart has become as steel will you be worthy to wield a keen-edged sword in battle and win against your enemies, as did the gods when they conquered the dark giants. When you have mastered the mysteries of steel, my son, your sword will be your very soul.”
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
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  2. ahmo

    ahmo Senior Member

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    Northcoast NSW, Australia
  3. Hutan

    Hutan Senior Member

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    Nice @David Jackson and great to hear you are improving.

    But, I don't think you could have told your younger self how to avoid getting sick. Certainly, I don't think my former 10 year old self was doing anything particularly wrong when I got ME the first time (or did anything much particularly right to prompt my remission a year later).

    Probably my 48 year old former self was doing plenty wrong (but not majorly worse than the average busy working mother), but I don't think there is nearly enough evidence for me to beat myself up about that causing my second round of ME. Similarly, I don't feel inclined to blame either myself or my children for them also getting ME at the same time.

    As a mother of a young person who has moderate ME, I would do a great deal to avoid my son having to go through this. There are plenty of personality-strengthening challenges to be found in life without ME.
     
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  4. Little Bluestem

    Little Bluestem All Good Things Must Come to an End

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    I got the illness that led to the ME while on vacation. If I could go back and tell my former self not to take that trip, I certainly would. After 30 years I have age-related physical problems. That and my limited finances would keep me from doing the things I once thought I would, even if I recovered from the ME.
     
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  5. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

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    @David Jackson, thank you for sharing. I think this story makes you rather special. I for one would gladly help myself or anyone avoid this illness in any way I could, if I could.

    I do feel that being ill has strengthened my character in some ways. Made me more patient, more tolerant of other people's suffering, more appreciative of small things. But I simply cannot measure the ways in which I may have developed through the experiences I never had cos I was ill. Its a conundrum, isn't it? Imagining another version of ourselves, shaped by a different reality.

    Certainly, though for me, none of these "benefits" are worth the suffering, and if I could do anything to prevent anyone at all from having to go through what I did, I would. If you want to enrich yourself through suffering, there are other ways to do that which are much, well, "richer", like helping the poor or disadvantaged.

    I have heard occasional stories like yours, though. One was from a colleague with fibro, who felt that the pain she'd experienced had built her character, and she would not go back and change that even if she could. I really have to admire that.
     
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  6. worldbackwards

    worldbackwards A unique snowflake

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    I prefer this quote from Conan, via @Esther12, which I feel is more generally applicable to our predicament:

     
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  7. David Jackson

    David Jackson Senior Member

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    ROFL @worldbackwards... I knew someone would bring up that quote if I started writing the sayings of Conan the Barbarian on the forum :lol:

    According to the book, when Conan makes that statement he was a slave; a gladiator, actually.

    Conan's village was [Spoiler Alert] massacred when he was young, his parents killed in front of him, and he was sold into slavery. After a decade of extreme physical toil as a slave, he became tremendously strong, and word of his strength spread until he was bought by slaver who owned gladiators. Conan excelled as a gladiator and this made his owner very rich, thus he paid all kinds of gold to have Conan expertly trained in every weapon so he could not be defeated in the ring. It was at the height of his gladiatorial career that he uttered this quote, @worldbackwards.

    After several years, there was a large earthquake that broke Conan's cage apart, freeing him. He saw that the earthquake had trapped his slaver under some rocks, but chose not to free him, leaving him there to die. Eventually he found the people the originally destroyed his village, and took his revenge. Throughout the whole book, though, Conan is reflecting on the Riddle of Steel that he originally heard from his father, always finding out another part of it from some significant person that he meets on his journey. It becomes extremely important to him to understand the Riddle, what it meant to his father, and what it means for him. Finally, after exacting his revenge, Conan comes to understand the Riddle completely; that it is not the steel in the blade that matters most, but the steel inside the man.

    I've always loved that book; I think I'm going read it again because I am now starting to see how it's themes can apply to me in my situation with CFS. For one, I think it can help to reconcile the suffering comes along with the disease. In addition, though, I am a highly task orientated person, and it's so very frustrating not to be able to get things done, for want of energy. Especially so now, actually, after seeing just a bit of improvement, but still being so limited. This realisation that I've had this morning, though, is making me see things in a different light; it's making me focus on what I am becoming, rather than just on what I could otherwise be doing. I'm quite a spiritual person, so the idea that there is very good value to "character development" as opposed to just "getting things done" is something that I can really concur with.

    Thanks to all for the replies, hopefully this elaboration here explains it all a bit more. It think one of the biggest factors, though, has been making some improvement. It's easier to be grateful for CFS when you're not suffering quite as much, and when you have a light at the end of the tunnel, albeit a distant light.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
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  8. worldbackwards

    worldbackwards A unique snowflake

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    Like I said, exactly like us :)
     
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  9. Skippa

    Skippa Anti-BS

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    Makes me think, any of us, if we'd never had the misfortune of experiencing CFS et al, then we might be on the rolly eyed, pull yourself together camp.

    We've kind of learned a lesson of compassion..
     
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  10. duncan

    duncan Senior Member

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    Ironically, Howard did not live long. He wrote most of the series in his 20's, I think. Many Conan stories were finished after he died; authors like Lin Carter and L. Sprague De Camp contributed their talents to help preserve Howard's voice.

    Of course, most of his "books" had covers painted by Frank Frazetta. My younger brother has signed Frazetta Conan prints.

    Edited to add: So odd I can remember this from close to 50 years ago, but I struggle to recall what I had for dinner last evening. I guess that's my tie back to ME/CFS and the thread.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  11. David Jackson

    David Jackson Senior Member

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    Yes, Howard took his own life upon the death of his mother, which was in his 30th year. Some said he struggled with depression throughout his life, and wrote about characters he would like to be like himself. Others disagree, and say that the stress got too much for him on this one occasion.

    I have a few of Frazetta's images that I use as desktops on my computer, sometimes. Nowhere near as good as a signed print though.

    Are quality people, for the most part, made and not born? Forged, could you even say? And what could that mean for us?
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  12. duncan

    duncan Senior Member

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    Forged, churned, patched, fermented, figmented (?) - pick your qualifier. ;)

    I suspect it will hold true for people low on quality, too. :rolleyes:

    It's all in the pen of the author...I mean that literally(sorry). Was John Irving's Garp forged, or was he a quirky mishap from frivolous serendipity? Was Holmes born with intellectual superiority, and life and discipline honed that skill set? Was Hesse's Siddhartha destined or shaped??

    Does our will shape our lives, or does life define the quality of our will?

    A dash of nurture and a dollop of nature. Individual recipes vary based on what happens on the fly, so to speak.

    Ultimately, maybe Howard had it right after all.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
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  13. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    Unfortunately I dont think this illness has taught me much in the way of good. I had tons of compassion for others before I got this illness (Id do anything for anyone but that doesnt mean that I didnt have the self love too) In fact I think having this illlness, has made me less compassionative as I dont have the patience (or health) I used to have for others issues.

    If I could go back I would warn myself that life isnt a rush and to try to achieve my goals more slowly rather being like a super mother/person but i was just unfortunate my health didnt hold throu this.

    Im though always glad to hear those who feel like this illness has made them a better person in some way, for some they may have gained more compassion or understanding out of having ME.
     
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  14. Artorias

    Artorias

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    I would have done quite nicely without the suffering, to be honest. I didn't need it. I don't feel grateful for anything about it at all. All it's taught me is that sometimes life sucks even more than you thought it could.
     

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