Reading Down Under

I’m not Crazy by Leigh Hatcher

It’s safe to say that the recent gap in my reviews has not been because of my latest read as it took me little over a day to read “I’m not crazy”. This was a short but quite powerful story about a television reporter dealing with the misunderstood condition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
It’s worth a mention here that I do know about CFS and what a devastating effect it can have on a person’s life, though not through direct experience. Due to many of it’s symptoms being exhaustion related it can be seen as a layabouts disease, or even a front for something psychological.

From the start Hatcher fights hard against these presuppositions, describing in a meaningful way how driven and active he was until the condition hit. This stops the reader from presuming certain ideas and also effectively shows how Hatcher’s life becomes a never ending battle between trying to get his life back and allowing his body the rest it now seems to crave. Not to say that his only symptom is exhaustion, in fact some of Hatcher’s descriptions of his experiences and symptoms caused me to read while simultaneously repeating in my own head “Please don’t let this happen to me. Please don’t let this happen to me”. That may seem cold but he truly does present us with the hell that he lived through, the pain and suffering is truly heart-wrenching and impossible for us to simply shrug off as laziness.
Hatcher talks about people’s opinions being one of the worst points of the disease and, as I have already pointed out, this book is purposeful in its attempts to waylay any incorrect views we may have. He clearly remembers many unintentional remarks that clearly hurt him deeply, either by suggesting that he should “get over” his syndrome or that it was clearly mental. At the worst points we really do see how the world was becoming a dark place all around him. The information that helps him deal with his CFS is a real breakthrough in understanding the condition, not just for Hatcher but also all sufferers that it could help. It’s worth remembering that this syndrome has only recently been studied in depth and Hatcher is there with many other sufferers hoping to find answers. It’s a difficult process.
The only difficulty I had with this book is that Hatcher truly associates his illness with his personal relationship to God. He states openly that he was devout before CFS but during his lowest moments it is clearly religion that helps him not loose track of himself or his goals. As an atheist reader this was difficult for me to appreciate and, at certain points, even ran the danger of alienating me altogether. I’m not attacking the book on this point as Hatcher is talking about his own personal experience, which religion was clearly part of. What I am concerned about however is that his introduction suggests that he hopes this book will be an inspiration to all those who suffer from this condition, which I simply don’t think can be achieved when Christianity is so necessary to his own personal journey.
This book is a very effective tool against the misjudgments people make about CFS and Hatcher is frank and open to a fault about his experiences.

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