This is a book about chronic illness. It’s written by a doctor who has experienced M.E. This gives it the potential to be good on more than one level, and it is!
I should probably point out at the outset that the closest I’ve come to experiencing chronic illness is the post-viral nasty that took me out for a month or two some years ago. Though even that was quite a challenging experience, and not easy to manage.
But this book tackles chronic illness with gusto. Emily Ackerman writes from experience, both personal and medical. She also writes in a profoundly open and honest way. And I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that’s so practical. Each chapter closes with a ‘For Reflection’ section. Many of these could also be called ‘For Action’, because they encourage not just thinking, but doing. It’s also grounded in the author’s Christian faith. For example, in a chapter on handling emotions, she writes:
Please don’t confuse emotional upheaval with lack of faith or loss of faith. Jesus was the perfect man, yet he wept when his friend Lazarus died, burst out in frustration at the apathy of Jerusalem and roared with anger as he turned the tables of the Temple traders… This is not a man who spent his time gently smiling, like the Sunday School pictures. Jesus felt and expressed his emotions in a way that was open and authentic, yet lived without sin. I can’t expect to do any better.
Personally, I found the book to be valuable. There was plenty in there even for me. Some of what Emily says about work, and giving it up, struck a chord with me. I know that my circumstances are different (I ‘gave up work’ so that I could look after the boys and support Anna in her work – a role that we do together), yet there were important truths for me in this book, about work and worth. Her writing on rest was also of value. However much energy you have, rest is important (even my five-year-old, who charges through life uninhibited, loses the plot if he’s not had enough sleep). There’s also very useful stuff about the church. Of course, much of what she writes is from the perspective of the one with the chronic illness, but it doesn’t take a genius (thankfully!) to work out that much of what she writes is a challenge to the church to do family better, and to ensure that the difficulties she writes of are minimised by the efforts of my church.
I did find myself wondering if the book might sometimes be heavy going for someone who is struggling with chronic illness, partly because it is so practical and therefore could perhaps feel demanding. And yet, clearly it is rooted in experience. Some, I suppose, might find themselves worrying about how they compare to the author, and how their ‘progress’ might compare to hers, but the book is written in a relentlessly hopeful way, so I hope it would spur people on, and drench them in encouragement, rather than cause any angst. Also, chapters tend to be really quite short, and broken into chunks, so would hopefully be manageable. And the cartoons are amusing, too!
As ever, if you would like to borrow my copy of this book, please say so in the comments section, and I’ll send it to you 🙂