And today is the day after (retrospectively posted since the Escom was at the beginning of August, but we then traveled to Germany/France/Spain without time to post this…).

Now, usually and for most people, an academic conference such as this one is a good opportunity to share your latest research, network with other specialists and academics in your field, listen to other people’s findings and presentations, and come away inspired and with lots of new ideas and energy as you re-immerse yourself into your studies at your home university or institute. You might be a bit nervous having to present, and you might be a bit tired from travelling and having to mingle/represent (and perhaps also from late night drinks with colleagues), but the experience is – mostly – energising, if it’s a good conference.

If you have a chronic illness (visible or invisible) that is similar to the one M lives with, things are a little different, although most of the positive aspects apply! The cost you pay is decidedly higher.

The challenges start in the run-up, as you’re not only carefully planning for extra support (and extra expenses) to make it through the conference, but also to psych yourself up for an event that will cost you a lot of energy you don’t really possess, physical pain, and then later the payback (read: days when you know you will feel miserable and won’t be able to work or experience your ‘normality’).

My vantage point is of course that of a (close) observer and supporter, not that of the person living through the experience. From where I stand, I find it admirable to see the determination that doesn’t only make you meet the usual high standards of work, and bring creativity and grit to contribute something worthwhile to science and the world at large, but that also gets you through the ‘side effects’ of your body’s reaction to the demands you have to put on it.

So, while it’s very hard to see that someone you care about is suffering, and while it’s hard that what I can do to help is extremely limited, I think it’s fair to say that I’m a fan. Go M!