Present Me by Renate Dorrestein was the first book I read about chronic fatigue. For a long time, I thought this wasn’t such a good choice, but now, in retrospect, I’m starting to doubt it.
Chronic fatigue: you don’t want to hear it
The same day my GP referred me to an internist to see if I might have chronic fatigue (CFS), I made an appointment with a homeopathic naturopath. I would rather be told that my gut had reacted double-positive to the blood test and that my blood pressure was so low that I should have fallen over on the spot than to hear that I had chronic fatigue.
Not that I knew much about the disease. Tolle enough to have a lot of preconceptions about it, though. I saw the storm again. The story that no one knew where the complaints came from, that the number of patients has grown explosively in recent years, was very strange, and that the doctor wondered if it was not in his mind.
Treatment of chronic fatigue: prefer a diet
Then rather a strict, but concrete diet without sugar, yeast, and dairy. Unfortunately, it hardly helped my fatigue. The months rained together and after half a year I was able to see the internist. A series of investigations later, I certainly had nothing dangerous and the man referred me to the Nijmegen Knowledge Center for Chronic Fatigue (NKCV). Another waiting list of a few months. Another chance to get better before I got there. I stuck to my diet and tried other alternative therapies as well. Nothing really seemed to help.
In March I had an interview with the NKCV. I was tested in May. And in June I was told that I had CFS according to the criteria of the knowledge center and that I could start treatment in September. Two days later I saw Heden I at the thrift store. Buying the book was admitting that I suffered from CFS. Could I have done otherwise?
Present me: very recognizable
Present Ik is funny and very recognizable: the emotions that Dorrestein describes, the frustration, and the journey through the alternative therapists. The book did not reassure me about the disease and the stories circulating about it. On the contrary, the writer goes through some humiliating experiences. My fear of what was hanging over my head only grew because of it. In addition, the happy ending gave me a big hangover, because Dorrestein writes that she is cured by the same diet that had hardly helped me.
What I hated the most while reading, however, was the so-called self-mockery. Very effective at getting the laughs on your hand, but it doesn’t make Heden me any lighter. Because under that self-mockery you feel the anger, the indignation. I saw my own indignation, my own victimhood so magnified that it started to displease me. I didn’t want this, this pathetic fuss about the injustice of existence. I knew one thing for sure, if I would start my treatment at the NKCV like this, I might as well not start it.
Present me: blessing-in-disguise
A year later, after successful treatment, I suddenly wonder if Heden it has finally been a blessing-in-disguise for me. Has the book mirrored my tendency to self-pity so well and pushed me into my blind spots so well that I opted for a different tactic out of the way? The tactic of welcoming reality openly and just doing what you can. In that case, I am grateful to Renate Dorrestein because that new tactic works a lot better.