"The gripping prose in this memoir describes a young man, whose life deteriorates from a healthy fitness trainer to the sudden depths of being sick and bedridden with a mysterious illness for years. Jamison’s dedication to life, however fragile, and advocacy, however impossible, have brought out this incredible story of survival."
- Stephanie Land, New York Times bestselling author of MAID
If you are reading this, there is a high probability that you personally and deeply understand the high level of dedication and commitment it takes to live with a chronic illness like Lyme disease and ME/CFS. In his early 20s, Author and Chronic illness advocate Jamison Hill had to tap into the “discipline he developed as a bodybuilder” to overcome life's toughest obstacle yet- suffering a fatal car crash and then becoming ill with a “mystery illness” that no doctor could solve.
After nearly two years of being bedridden, Jamison found a doctor that cracked his case and is treating him successfully- which is still ongoing. Lyme disease and ME/CFS are complex, chronic diseases. Soon after this, Jamison found love and wrote a beautiful piece for The New York Times: Love Means Never Having to Say … Anything.
After years of writing for outlets like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, Jamison expanded on his initial New York Times essay, and wrote “When Force Meets Fate.”
First of all, congratulations on your new book, “When Force Meets Fate”. I know that you’ve written several articles now for establishments like the New York Times and Washington Post. How did you know it was time to write this book, and what was the process like? I had always wanted to write a memoir, but I didn’t have much of a story to tell. Then I got sick and decided to write about my experiences with doctors and trying to live life with an illness. So I sort of wrote it as my illness developed without any idea of how things would turn out. I was actually going to publish the book in 2014 with a sort of anticlimactic ending, but then suddenly my illness got worse and I lost my ability to speak and eat. I couldn’t walk. I almost died a few times. I was obviously too sick to write, so I wrote in my mind, not knowing whether I would ever become well enough to write again and finish the book. Thankfully my health improved and now I can share all the experiences. You’ve stated that prior to your illness you were a body-builder, benching up to 400 lbs. What was that transition like, going from someone with those great physical capabilities, to being bed-bound?
It was a gradual decline. When I first got sick, there was a significant drop in my strength. I tried to work out but couldn’t even lift half of the weight I used to. Then I could only lift like forty pounds. Then I could only do body weight exercises and some yoga and stretching. Now, after a decade of being sick, I have trouble lifting a water glass. It has been a very humbling experience. But I try to look at it in a positive way — my body is weaker, but I’ve gotten stronger mentally and emotionally. Speaking of, what does your day to day life look like right now? My days are rarely the same. I have really bad insomnia so sometimes I sleep a solid eight hours, other times I only get a few hours and basically just take three naps in a day, no deep sleep. Sometimes I sleep until 9am fairly well rested, other days I don’t fall asleep until 9am. It’s a mess. But usually I wake up and take my medications like hydrocortisone and Valcyte. Then I brush my teeth and eventually I take a bath using an inflatable tub on my bed because getting to the bathroom to take a shower is too difficult. Then I eat and try to relax before I brush my teeth again and try to sleep. I know that so often with a chronic illness such as M.E. the physical symptoms are often debilitating. How do you find time to invest in your mental health, when tasks such as getting out of bed, or making a meal feel impossible? Honestly, I should give more attention to my mental health. I’m pretty sound mentally, but everyone has their breaking points, and having been through everything that I have, it’s easy for trauma and anger and frustration to bubble up to the surface. And it’s hard to find the time to deal with it. One thing I write about in the book is how chronic illness makes it nearly impossible to properly process the trauma in one’s life because the trauma is ongoing. Illness creates a constant state of trauma in a lot of ways, a wound that just keeps reopening. Right now I listen to audio-books and podcasts and watch movies to give my mind a rest from all that. I also talk to loved ones. That helps. What do you think living with this chronic illness for the past 10 years has taught you about the human experience, and what we really need to be happy? It has taught me so many things. I’m way more compassionate to the struggles of other people now.
I always believe people when they say they’re struggling, because of course they are. I think I was more apathetic before I got sick. I was so out of touch with chronic illnesses and disabilities. It really takes getting sick, and having to live it, to know what someone is truly going through. And as much as I hate living like this, it has made me a wiser, more compassionate person.
*The Case Integrative Health blog does not give medical advice. If you are interested in making an appointment at Case Integrative Health, please contact the office at (773)-675-1400.
Additional contributions to this article by Anna Roberts.