There are many things that those of us who live with chronic illness have to contend with, and one of those things is the thoughts and opinions of others. While we should pay no mind to what others think of us, I, for one, would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about what others thought of me and my conditions.
What I wish people knew about chronic illness is that it can be unpredictable. Case in point: on Saturday of this week, I was able to successfully compete in a Kettlebell competition followed by a nice, long bike ride. Last night I took a Zumba class. Today I was in tears, multiple times, due to stomach discomfort and an absolutely debilitating migraine, and the frustration that comes with these things.
I wish people knew that, while one day, I may be fine, the next day, or next hour, I may not be. That’s something that I’ve gotten used to; unfortunately, it’s something that is hard for many “outsiders” to wrap their heads around.
I may not look sick. I may look healthy and “normal.” But that doesn’t mean I feel that way on the inside. Or — I may look awful and feel great. There’s really no rhyme or reason to any of this, so I’ve learned.
I wish people knew that I didn’t discuss my health issues for pity, sympathy, or attention. I wish people knew that I talk about it because it’s a huge part of my life, whether I want it to be or not. I discuss it to help others who are dealing with the same hurdles. To inform. To educate. To be matter-of-fact. To explain. Not to get pitied, babied, or fawned over. Certainly not to be looked down upon or judged.
I wish people knew that most of us aren’t exaggerating when we describe what we’re feeling. Sure, I’m certain that many people do — but the things that many people think are too absurd or too bad to be true often times are, for us. I wish people knew that with complex autoimmune illnesses come complex symptoms and complications. That it’s an ever-changing journey. That diagnoses we are handed change from time-to-time, as do treatments. It’s always an evolving process.
One thing that is consistent and predictable, though, for me, is this: I will always be doing whatever I can to feel better. I will not rest on my laurels and watch life pass me by. I will do what I can on days I am well. I will not stop trying new supplements and alternative treatments and diets and exercises. I will always be striving to be a better person, with better health. I will always strive to do so with determination and with a smile. I will always try to stay hopeful and positive, even when I have a “down” day — and I will have those days, too. I am human. We all have problems. We all hurt. We are all entitled to get frustrated now and then.
What I wish people knew is that when I am having a down or frustrated day, that I am not giving up. I’m simply expressing my feelings, and I’ll be back on the proverbial horse again soon.
What I wish people knew about chronic illness is that it isn’t easy to deal with — but it also doesn’t have to rob those of us who DO deal with it, of an awesome life. Every day, I am grateful for the many good things I have in my life. In every bad day there is good, even if we must strain ourselves to find it.
If nothing else, I wish people knew that being sick and facing struggles and complications along the way hasn’t changed who I am for the worse — it’s probably changed me for the better. It hasn’t diminished my, or anyone’s, value as a human being. Our worth has remained. It still shines through.
And despite feeling, at times, physically broken, my faith and my strength will not falter.
I wish people knew that chronic illness sucks, this is true … but it doesn’t have to suck the life out of me, or you, or any of us … and it won’t. Not for me. Through brain surgery and Celiac disease, from eye problems and mild hearing loss, to rheumatoid arthritis and knee problems, muscle spasms and bone weakness, from chronic migraines and food allergies, to tachycardia, thyroid issues, and beyond, I’ve persevered.
And what I want people to know when it comes to chronic illness is that I will ALWAYS continue to persevere.
… and you can, too.
What I want you all to know, no matter what you’re dealing with, is that you’re not alone.
And that, my friends, is what I wish people knew about chronic illness.
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