Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not the only one, that someone else is going through a similar experience. Even if you have never met them (and not likely ever will), but only heard their story on the radio. That’s what happened to me a few days ago.
I was listening to one of my favourites, Outlook on the BBC World Service. On Wednesday, 6 February 2013, it featured an interview with Susannah Cahalan, who a few years ago was struck down by a terrifying and for a while mysterious illness. She was eventually diagnosed with “Anti-NMDA-Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis”.
The whole interview was fascinating but the moment of connection came at the very end.
Thankfully, I have never had to suffer anything as awful as Susannah’s condition. But I have in the past suffered from a different autoimmune illness (Myasthenia Gravis). Like Susannah’s condition, we don’t really know what triggers is. After talking through her experience of illness and recovery, the interviewer asked:
I was just wondering if you get nervous that it might be starting again? […] For you that must be “oh my goodness, is that a warning sign?”.
Susannah then describes moments when something slightly strange happens (in her case, a light might look brighter than usual) and she instantly wonders if that is because her illness is returning. Which happens to me on a regular basis as well. These days, I normally never think about being ill. But it doesn’t take much, and the fear rises to the surface.
Two’s company. And sometimes that is nice to have.