The 43-year-old Ms. Hillenbrand contracted chronic fatigue syndrome during her sophomore year at Kenyon College. The bewildering disease, thought to originate from a virus, can be enfeebling and is incurable. Ms. Hillenbrand is today essentially a prisoner in her own home. She is so consistently weak and dizzy (vertigo is a side effect) that she recently installed a chair lift to get to the second floor of her house, where she lives with her husband, G. Borden Flanagan, an assistant professor of political philosophy at American University. What to others might seem simple matters are to her subjects of grave consideration. "I skipped my shower today," she says, "in order to have the strength to do this interview. My illness is excruciating and difficult to cope with. It takes over your entire life and causes more suffering than I can describe."Read the whole thing. This passage hit me with all the directness of a medieval morality play. My writing output has suffered somewhat since the arrival of the little Tottering Tornado. (Seriously, how does someone who can barely walk upend a room in thirty seconds flat?) I suspect I'm not the only one who occasionally feels as though gathering both the time and energy to write is a preternatural undertaking. But compared to chronic fatigue syndrome? Yeah, it's a walk in the proverbial park. Need I make it explicit to myself or anyone else that if Hillenbrand can pen two excruciatingly researched books (she also wrote Seabiscuit) then our capacity for writing can survive a whole host of lesser strains?
Ms. Hillenbrand's research was complicated by her disease. But as she likes to remind people, she came down with chronic fatigue syndrome before starting her writing career, and she has learned to work around it.
(Picture: CC 2008 by hannah8ball)