Needing to be independent

Until I was about 31 I couldn’t drive. I’d never needed to get my driving licence. Suddenly, we were moving to a town where without my own car my independence would disappear and I wouldn’t even be able to work. A mad few months of driving lessons, theory tests etc began. On my in-laws wedding anniversary, August 26th, I passed my test.

The first time I went out in the car by myself, it felt amazing, I felt free! Now my father-in-law has made a sensible suggestion but it is a suggestion that logically I agree with but my heart screams, “No!”

He has suggested I sell my car, I haven’t used it since November and it sits at the side of the road, depreciating. A car needs to be used or it starts to have problems and mine is not used often. So logic would agree, I don’t think I’ll be driving it any time soon so yes it should go.

Selling it however feels like it removes my ability to be free, to be independent. I’m one of the lucky ones, I don’t have severe M.E. so to some this worry will seem frivolous, they no longer worry about losing their independence because it is long gone.

However, I have already lost so much of my independence: I haven’t been in a supermarket since Janurary; I can no longer even walk into town for a coffee; I can’t plan my own holiday and then just wander aimlessly around when we get there; I can’t leave the house whenever I want and go for a long walk; I can’t spend a few days alone when my husband goes away; I can’t plan my career; I can’t spontaneously decide to do something social; and I can’t drive.

Selling my car feels like it might be the start of a slippery slope towards those that have lost total independence. It would only be a monetary decision but it feels like so much more than that.

For me, being independent was always a crucial part of who I was. At 19 I moved to London for three months, I did the same at 20 and at 21 I moved there to do a Masters degree. I knew nobody and had to create my own life, get a job, find a flat. At 24 I moved to Poland with accommodation for a few weeks but no job, no language, no bountiful money and only one friend. Each time I faced these challenges pretty much alone and revelled in my independence. I have always loved being around people but I’ve never really needed them.

Today, I’m faced with needing people, not just loving being with them. It is a challenge to deal with and this is one thing I haven’t quite dealt with yet. I hate to tell people that they need to bring me home because I’m tired now, I hate to tell people to get me things because I can’t do it myself. My greatest hate is asking my husband after his long day at work to do jobs at home while I have spent the day on the sofa: I hate that I can’t do it all!

When you read the M.E. forums this sense of dependence on others seems to have the greatest emotional reaction. People desperately need the support of others but crave their own independence.

When I was well, I never considered the importance of being independent. I never thought about my elderly neighbours, those who were unwell around me, those who through illness or age have lost their ability to be truly free.

I hope when I get well, I don’t forget what the reality of losing some (luckily) of my independence was like. I hope I do something to help others retain their independence. I hope I don’t become oblivious again to those that fear it’s loss.

Will I sell my car? I don’t know – I don’t think it is a decision I’m ready to make.

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2 thoughts on “Needing to be independent”

  1. Deciding to sell my car was the second hardest decision for me. The hardest decision was to apply for disability benefits. I hated to admit that I was not able to work any more. I had worked since age 14, and I had supported myself and my daughter as I worked my way through college and law school. I had been sick for 11 years when I finally admitted that I was disabled, but I kept my car. It stayed in the garage most of the time because I rarely drove, but it meant freedom to me, and it was a big part of my identity, so I kept it. It was another 13 years before I could bring myself to sell my car. I did so when I realized I had not driven the car for two years. Even then, it was a difficult decision for me.

    I think a lot of us with M.E. struggle with this. Where I live, you can’t even shop for groceries without a car. Everyone drives. But somewhere along the way, I realized it was not safe for me to be driving any more, and eventually I surrendered. Losing my car became just another of the many cruel losses to this illness.

    My car meant freedom to me, and I treasured that. I had always been independent. I made my own way in the world, and I was proud of it. Giving up my car wasn’t the beginning of a slippery slope for me; it was the admission that I was already sliding, and halfway down the slope. I still miss that independence. But now I accept help from others and I feel blessed that I have people I can depend on to help me, especially on the harder days.

    I wish I had some words that might ease this decision for you, but I don’t. It is another one of those hard decisions people with M.E. face. My one piece of advice is to be gentle with yourself. It really is a difficult decision, and my advice is not to sell your car until you know it is the right time for you. If you are like I was, you will know if and when it is time. You will just know.

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