Chronic Fatigue, Florence Nightingale and Seabiscuit

This post was written by Megan on January 12, 2010
Posted Under: myths and assumptions about burnout

Florence Nightingale takes a nap

Florence Nightingale had chronic fatigue syndrome.  Or so they say.  Truth or fiction, this rumour helps to give this mysterious condition a bit of 'street cred'.  But sometimes these stories can add to the challenge, rather than relieve it.

CFS associations throughout the western world love to drop Nightingale's name. Yep, she is "one of us". Florence was a kind of health guru, so this means we don't have to feel so embarrassed, you see.  

The same applies to almost any other 'celebrity' figure who may have CFS symptoms. Our knuckles are white on their stories of snooze. But sometimes celebrity tales can actually work against us….


Florence as an 'over-achiever'

Did Florence pull the plug on nursing when the fatigue hit? Or did she slur her way through the wards? This is where the Nightingale myth can back-flip for fatiguers.  

It is rumoured that Florence did lie down when her health dropped like a sack of spuds. But she also did some extraordinary pioneering hospital planning while bedridden.  

Being actively fabulous despite her fatigue can make it hard for the rest of us – especially when we're too tired to decide whether it's Corn Flakes or Coco Pops for breakfast.

Note: Yes, I know breakfast should be eggs for protein (too much effort to cook) or organic muesli (too much effort to eat).


The Seabiscuit story

Here's another one. Laura Hillenbrand wrote the bestseller 'Seabiscuit' (later turned into a successful Hollywood movie) while struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Some people know that I've written a novel during my time with Chronic Fatigue.  They often mention the Seabiscuit example (I call it the soggy cookie, just to be playful). Their intention is to help boost my spirits.  But unfortunately the impact is quite the opposite.

Much like healthy authors, I can't find a publisher let alone turn that baby into a bestseller and Hollywood movie.  

And I'm sure nurses with CFS are having a hard time creating groundbreaking hospital strategies while they push on with the Corn Flake versus Coco Pops Challenge.   


The Seabiscuit story you don't often hear 

Read what Laura Hillenbrand had to say in 2001 about the price of pushing yourself too hard while still fragile (found on the beliefnet site)

"I was just working myself half to dealth.  I've been doing a lot of interviews, and I have now lost the ability to read and write altogether.  I've really paid the ultimate price."


Achievement and you

I'm not saying you should stop everything. In fact, any activity that gives you some emotional lift should be encouraged. But be gentle with yourself. Enjoy the process for what it is and let success come in the form it chooses.  

Achievement is not just about being groundbreaking or best selling.  Achievement is actually a very personal notion. What it means is different for all of us. And it changes as different challenges face us.

I'm still working on my version of what achievement means. How about you?  

(p.s. know any publisher interested in a fun-filled yarn about art fakes?  I have just the thing…) 


This post was written by Megan Hills – Megan is a writer of fiction as well as non-fiction (or so she keeps telling us).  Tragically, she has trouble identifying celebrities on the covers of magazines these days. 
Find out more about Megan.

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