For as long as I can remember I’ve never really cared for my birthday, and that sentiment has only become worse since I became ill. That dreaded annual event rolled around again two days ago and I felt so down for weeks prior to it. I’m 37 years old and I’m ill again and I just felt so tired, old and useless. I rarely feel that way, but something about my birthday brings out the most dispirited side of me.
I was 25 when ME/CFS hit; I had love, laughter, friendship, a career in a brilliant company and plans, lots and lots of plans. All of that went away for 10 years, so I was in my mid-thirties by the time I next resurfaced. I managed to catch up a little but then I drowned again and now it seems the closer I get to 40, the more I feel the loss of that time.
This year was the worst because exactly one week before my birthday was Uncle Giani’s birthday. Uncle Giani isn’t my flesh and blood uncle, but he’s dearer to me than most of my blood relatives. His daughter is one of my dearest friends and the whole Giani family took me in and looked after me while I had medical tests done and tried alternative treatments just after I was diagnosed with ME. They loved me, cared for me and put up with my erratic mood swings during those difficult months when I was far away from my own family, friends and life.
Last year, Uncle became ill and the prognosis was not good and his health has slowly been deteriorating. Last week on his birthday, I knew it would be his last one and somehow that realisation really affected me. I thought it would have made me feel more positive and hopeful about my own birthday; ‘make the most of each day’ etc etc, but it did not.
All week I’ve been wallowing in the birthday blues and abject misery at what I knew was coming for Uncle Giani. Then, as I woke up to my own ‘Happy Birthday’ messages, I also received the message that I had been dreading; dear Uncle Giani had passed away. I’ve had people I love die before, but I seem to be taking Uncle Giani’s death particularly hard. It’s not just that he has gone; thinking about his wife, daughters and granddaughter just breaks my heart.
It’s too early yet for me to draw any kind of lesson from all this; it still feels so raw. I am just grateful that the last time that Uncle Giani and his wife visited London was when I was going through my good phase and I was able to spend time with them and take them around the city. I’ll always have that.