I doubt anyone has ever envied the lifestyle of a person living with a chronic illness. I can’t say that I blame them, but what we go through on a frequent basis is a lot more complex than popping pills and having blood tests. Whilst there is an argument to say ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, there is also a small part of me that’s a bit bored of getting ‘stronger’. Here’s my list of things that all people living with a chronic illness can relate to…
Developing ‘The Fear’
Your day to day life changes a lot after being diagnosed with a chronic illness. Having said that, it will probably have changed a lot before your diagnosis, as often the symptoms of your condition will have been active far long before you get given a medical terminology for what’s wrong with you. With a disease relating to the bowel such as Crohns or Colitis, you may often find yourself panicking to plan toilet trips and nap times to ease the fatigue. I hate the yawn-worthy false empowerment of ‘my illness does not define me’ but the message within that statement is worth acknowledging. Yes, you have a Chronic Illness and yes actually, it does become a part of who you are – but the thing to empower yourself with is embracing all that comes with it and to encompass the good alongside the bad, knowing that the ‘bad’ parts are not the elements to focus too heavily on.
Learning to Listen to your Body
No one knows you better than you. You may want to go out drinking until 3am but if your inflammation is flaring up then that just ain’t happening honey. I spent far too many nights out when I should have been at home resting – and every time I regretted it as I made myself more unwell in the long run. Try and learn the signs that your body is giving to you – and respect the body you’re in. Unfortunately there are no replacements for your health.
Scheduling Around Appointments
Working a full time job, trying to balance a healthy social life and fitting in time to rest and relax is a hard enough challenge as it is – without the frequent hospital letters asking you to come in for your next check-up. Even something as small as visiting the doctor can turn into a two hour wait for a blood test at the nearest hospital. When you get diagnosed with a chronic illness, sometimes it can be hard to factor in the more long term implications that can have on your time and your schedule. Not all bosses and friends are understanding, so try and find out a routine that works – or tell them to sod off.
Overusing the word ‘fine’
The second most bland word in language next to ‘nice’. This will be your go-to word when people ask how you are. The secret definition of the word ‘fine’ can be easily translated to: ‘I’ve had 2 hours sleep due to steroids and in-between I’ve been sat on the toilet shitting out blood. I can’t eat or drink anything without upsetting my stomach, which you would never guess, as my face has ballooned like a puffer fish thanks to 8 steroid tablets a day. But how many times can I tell you the same story, so yes, sure; I’m fine’. It can be very hard for people to relate – sometimes you just don’t get it until you get it. Allow yourself to forgive people for not being able to understand, and remember not to accept being categorised in the ‘fine’ column if you’re not okay.
Remembering your Mental Health
Dealing with any chronic illness can be completely overwhelming. It is a complete change in your world and can have a massive impact on your body. However, do not forget the emotional implications as well as the physical. Learning to live your life with an illness that you cannot cure can feel like an enormous weight to carry and yet it is very easy to push the issues to the back of your mind rather than deal with them. Teach yourself the significance of making time to process things and practice reaching out to trusted ones or professionals if you need someone else to talk to. Your mental health is just as important as your physical, so make sure you give it the same respect and attention.
Are you living with a Chronic Illness? What are your tips to living life in the chronic lane?