Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Strength to Survive

This blog post is very near and dear to my heart. It is about Chronic Fatigue syndrome (CFS) and the lovely lady in these pictures is my best friend from high school. Her decade-plus long struggle with CFS is completely heart breaking. Not only is it debilitating, but very misunderstood and because of that she has lost friendships to those who were once very close.

This spunky, strong, and idealistic girl and I were two peas in a pod in high school. It was us against the world and we had everything ahead of us. An amazing writer, and an uncanny ability to help people with their problems, Bridget has so much to share and contribute to the world. She completed her Masters Degree in Social Work but her career was cut short by this vicious disease which has confined to her bed, a prisoner to a force beyond her control.

People think she’s just lazy. People think she should just snap out of it. People say “it must be nice to be able to stay home in bed all day.” To those people, I want you to know she would give anything to have a choice to work; a choice to leave the house for more than a few minutes without nearly passing out from extreme fatigue.; the opportunity to go a week without a doctor’s visit; or an hour for a day without wondering if this disease will ever leave her body- and longs for the day she’s free of this disease that has permeated every corner of her body and her life.

She is the strongest person I know. The strength it takes to not succumb to this disease every day is nothing short of superhuman. She has faced more disappointments than most of us can image, and persevered through so much pain and suffering. I am so proud and grateful that she choses to stay with us when every day the struggle is so immense.
t is my goal to help bring awareness to this awful disease in hopes of not only finding a cure, but to awaken compassion in the hearts of the healthy, to understand how truly difficult it is to be chronically ill. I can’t adequately express my sorrow for her struggle in words, so I tried my best to capture her life, her joys and sorrows, through photographs. I also hoped that my love for her would be reflected through in my images. She will always have my love and support no matter how tough things get. Now for her story through pictures. Despite her pain, despite her struggles, she can still smile the sweetest smile! I love you Bridget!!

Here is some information about CFS for those of you who would like to learn more (from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20022009 ):

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest.

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories — ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors.

There’s no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. You may need a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome focuses on symptom relief.

Chronic fatigue syndrome has eight official signs and symptoms, plus the central symptom that gives the condition its name:

Loss of memory or concentration
Sore throat
Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
Unexplained muscle pain
Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
Unrefreshing sleep
Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise

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About the photographer, Natalie Wheeler: I am a full time photographer and mom of two children. I am married to an amazingly supportive guy who is as passionate as I am about culture, travel, art, music, and family time. I currently reside in Peoria, Arizona, but am originally from Washington, D.C. I have also lived in Columbus, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This blog is place to share my love of photography with fellow enthusiasts.

Visit my site: www.actnaturallyphotography.com

Questions/Comments: Natalie@ActNaturallyPhotography.com

2 thoughts on “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Strength to Survive”

  1. Just reread this for the first time in a long time, Natty. You are so wonderful — in general and, specifically, to me — that I can’t find the special combination of words to string together to thank you for your enduring, always unconditional loving kindness and compassion towards myself and this illness that has kicked my a**. You are beautiful and something to be believed. Thank you again from the deepest region of my pretty broken red heart for thinking of me and sending me that awesome birthday card. I shall treasure it.
    Love always and forever. B