• Beth Matthews

Mourning The Life You Had (And The One You Wanted)

Early 20’s. A time to travel, socialise, drink heavily and go to work hungover. A time to have as much as much fun as humanly possible. All is forgiven in your early 20’s. Have (safe) sex with strangers. Develop a nice drug habit. Constantly update your wardrobe. Pay no attention to the weather forecast. Wear the most inconvenient shoes you can because they’re just so damn pretty. Who cares? You’re in your early 20’s, those blisters will heal! Fall in love over and over and fall out of it. Find yourself.

On the 19th February 2020 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Developing a chronic pain condition in your early 20’s takes away a lot of choices and a lot of freedom. It causes this sense of being lost; who are you now you’re ill? You’re going to have this for the rest of your life, and the plans you made now have to be adjusted or abandoned altogether and you’re meant to just find a way to be okay with it.

Having lived most of my life without chronic pain, I find myself grieving the life I had and the life I wanted. I wanted to be a film/TV producer, but the industry is completely inaccessible. I can’t be on my feet for 12 hour shoots whilst having no set schedule for sleep, exercise and eating. So along with some other goals, there goes my biggest dream. I am having to mourn. In some ways I think I’m incredibly lucky to have lived a life without chronic pain at one point, but it also means that saying goodbye to my life is deeply hurtful.

I had so many plans for the future. I wanted to learn to dance, backpack across America, go camping at the world's largest music festivals. These plans, they’re still achievable, but much less realistic – chances are I’d spend one-night camping at a festival before I said, “f*** this” and went home because the sun is too loud in the day, the temperature at night has caused me to seize up and why the f*** are people shouting at 4am?! I can barely carry my handbag to work let alone an entire backpack with a weekend’s worth of crap in it. Travelling for a relaxing holiday is already difficult, any form of travel causes my Fibro to flare and makes my fatigue extreme, the same way taking dance classes would be too tiring. There are a lot of goals I won’t give up on, they will just need some adjustment. But now is the time to say goodbye to some of the dreams I had.

So, for now I’ll mourn the dance lessons I’ll never have, I’ll mourn the bands I’ll never see. I will mourn my younger self, and for the woman I wanted to be. I mourn the things that have never been and probably never will be.

There are a lot of things that have been that I already miss, not the least being Friday night drinks. I’m not saying Friday drinks aren’t doable, it’s just that you hardly want to wake up hungover and go for brunch with your friends when it feels like you’ve been smacked down by the hand of God.

I miss the way people spoke to me when I was ‘able-bodied’. Now most conversations end with people telling me I shouldn’t or can’t do something or on the other end of the spectrum it’s all in your head, of course you can still do that. People that live in ignorance (albeit most think they’re helping) tend to be the most opinionated on how I should live my life and look after myself, like they know my illness better than I. I miss not being angry.

I’m told it gets easier in time, but for now I’ll miss myself. And I’ll forgive myself for the disappointment I feel.

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