[ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 17TH DECEMBER 2009 BY RED C MAGAZINE]
I have a love-hate relationship with blogs. There are several I enjoy – travel blog Going Local is an absolute delight, for example, and James and The Blue Cat is consistently chucklesome – but there are many more that incense me. Like spite-filled celeb rumour mill Perez Hilton, an ever-present reminder of humankind’s inexorable retreat into idiocy. Though it’s the ‘personal diaries’ that have traditionally acquired the majority of my goat.
“Come on”, I thought. “Wake up and smell the narcissism. How can you be so arrogant as to expect total strangers to give a flying fig about the mundane happenings of your mundane life? It’s the 21st century equivalent of popping round the neighbours’ to show off snaps from your latest break in Bognor.”
So when an old friend of mine started her own online diary in 2006, I was predictably blasé. I took a courteous glance but quickly dismissed it. Then, at the end of 2007, events conspired to turn her world upside down. Her blog took on another dimension, reporting every twist and turn of a tumultuous life. Before I knew it I was captivated – and I have been ever since. Over the last 24 months, her blog has changed my opinion of personal diaries forever…
My friend – known as ‘Billygean’ to her loyal readers – has had a rough couple of years. At the end of December 2007 she was a high-achieving law student enjoying a Christmas break in Paris with a new boyfriend. By the New Year, she was confined to bed with suspected glandular fever – an unpleasant viral disease, but one from which most people recover with a little rest, a couple of paracetamol and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Unfortunately, Billygean’s condition was a tad more complicated than that…
In March 2008, three months after first contracting the fever, Billygean was still bedridden. She couldn’t sit up of her own volition, let alone leave the house, so was forced to drop out of college. But it wasn’t until May that she finally received a new diagnosis: chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). As the name indicates, this disorder is characterised by a persistent, debilitating exhaustion, unrelated to sleep or overexertion. It can render people almost paralytic and full recovery occurs in as few as five to ten percent of cases.
Upon hearing this new diagnosis, Billygean experienced a predictable rollercoaster of emotions – and she took her readers along for the ride. Her blog took off in a new direction, dominated initially by her innermost thoughts – the painful memories of ‘normality’, the fears about never leaving the house again – but soon consumed by the reality of an imprisoned life. The diary became a champion of the humdrum; an unflinching account of her various time-killing activities, the precious private moments with her bloke and the awkward phone calls with her unsympathetic mother. The star of the show wasn’t her illness… it was everyday life. It was the mundane. It was everything I’d always despised.
But it’s this celebration of mundanity that makes Billygean’s blog so entertaining. She finds inspiration in the minutiae of her daily routine; from enjoying bubble baths to eating gluten-free biscuits. She depicts the characters in her life with colour and humour, whether it’s her omnipresent MadFather, her fact-filled DoctorSister or her loving boyfriend MindReader, and lets us eavesdrop on their most intimate conversations. And, when the mood takes her, she reminds us of her tragic, neverending battle with ‘The Body’ (her body, not Elle Macpherson).
It’s no surprise, then, that her wonderfully-well-written blog has become a mini-sensation, read daily by hundreds around the world, frequently mentioned in the press and prominently featured on the Action for M.E. Facebook page. There have now been two years of highs (renewed studies, part time jobs and family weddings) and lows (swine flu, diabetes and Coeliac disease) and her struggle continues. But I won’t tell you the whole story, I could never do it justice. You’ll just have to read her brilliant blog yourself. Trust me… if you hate personal diaries, you’ll love it.