ME/CFS and Coping with Our Inability to Be Productive

For many of us this illness robs us of the ability to play a productive role in society. Sometimes we are so unwell we are completely unable to contribute to anything. Sometimes we just have to cut back often needing to withdraw our energy form other important parts of our life just so that we can continue to feel useful to some small degree. Although I aim for balance, I still find myself expending the majority of my energy either in my part time job, writing my book and blog or preparing the household meals which often leaves very little for fun and leisure.

Grieving the loss of our productive roles is an important part of coming to terms with this illness. We need to reach an acceptance of our new ability level in order to manage our energy wisely. But even once we have reached this acceptance, the long-term nature of this illness can still leave us feeling frustrated with our inability to be useful.  We have a natural driving force towards usefulness, it is how our society thrives, without it our civilisation would never have developed to the extent that it has. But it is a force we have to learn how to manage when our ability is thwarted.

I find it useful to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. First of all, we are all intrinsically valuable whether or not we can produce. Love plays a role in that. It doesn’t matter that our young, our elderly, our pets etc. don’t produce because they can love and be loved. If our illness makes us unproductive, that doesn’t matter either, because we can love and be loved! If, like me, you believe that love is important to our society then each and every being capable of loving and being loved is equally important. Also remember that in order for there to be doctors, complementary and alternative health practitioners, carers, medical researchers etc. there has to be people who need them. You might not enjoy being the needy one, but you are just as valuable as them because in the grand scheme of things their value means nothing without you.

We need to value ourselves highly enough to give ourselves the space to learn how to overcome the challenges of this illness. Right now, productivity cannot come first, our health and happiness must take priority. With improved health and happiness, we will soon find ways of contributing again! In the mean time we can contribute just by being somebody who loves.

I am also a firm believer that our purpose in life is to grow and learn. Perhaps right now we can learn how to allow people to care for us? Perhaps you are giving the people around you the opportunity to learn how to care for someone facing your particular challenges? Perhaps we can learn how to slow down and just be, instead of having to do all the time? Constantly doing can sometimes get in the way of the simple experiences of joy and love. Perhaps this ‘time out’ will teach us new ways of being that will help us include love and joy in our future productivity?

I’m not saying all this because I believe we got sick for a reason, I don’t.  But I do believe we can use each challenge life throws at us as an opportunity for growth.  If we’re struggling with frustration about being unproductive, we can choose to turn that into a learning experience.  We can choose to adapt and find new ways to be happy and fulfilled.

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