I had lunch with a friend recently, and she is just starting her journey through chronic illness, and I realized all that I have learned in my journey.
There are a lot of things that come with having a chronic illness.
No one is affected the same.
But there are feelings and phrases that come up again and again.
Here are a few I have dealt with in my life:
“I will never be able to live the life I used to live.”
“I will never be the same person.”
“I am no longer a worthy person.”
“People will look at me differently.”
“I can’t deal with this”
“How will I ever get through this”
I have had a chronic illness for a long time. I think it is about 15 years now. Some days I forget about it altogether. Some days, my body screams at me, and I wonder if I will make it through.
Here is what I have learned:
The illness is not the only thing that defines me.
I will get through this.
The people that love me will see me no differently, and the people that see me differently don’t matter.
I have to adapt the way I live, but it is not stopping me from living.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in my 30’s. It is a chronic pain disorder that essentially makes me feel like I have the achiness you get from the flu every day. I am thankful that I have a relatively mild case of it and I have learned how to control the symptoms mostly.
The first few years were a completely different story. I spent the first 2 years of my pain seeing different doctors and specialists who didn’t believe I was actually sick. Then, I finally found a doctor who believed.
Then, it was 3 more years of trying different medications to manage my symptoms. That was a very trying time. One medication made me massively dizzy. One gave me hallucinations. One made me sleep walk and fall down my stairs. And none of them seemed to solve my problems. I was exhausted and at my wit’s end almost every day. Depression symptoms that I thought I had conquered in my twenties, came back with a vengeance and many days, I struggled to get out of bed or care about anything in my world.
But I am a problem solver, and so I researched, I tried alternative treatments. I exercised even though it was massively painful. I took horrible smelling herbs and went to acupuncture. And I started journaling for one of my doctors all my sleep habits and eating habits.
After another couple of years, I learned how to read my body by paying attention to what I was eating, how I was sleeping and what kind of stressors were in my life. I figured out that I need 8 hours of sleep not to feel exhausted. I know I need to continue acupuncture in order to keep the pain minimized. And I needed to learn to manage my stress to manage the many flare-ups of the disease.
Today, I am well into living with a chronic disease, and I am still learning how much is too much, but I am so much better mentally than I have been. I work hard to make sure I have the quiet time I need each day to meditate and slowly move my body. I am working on eating better in hopes that it will further lessen the pain. I am consistent with my acupuncture once a month and I try to exercise regularly.
This year, I am hoping to add some new adventures to my life, and I will keep in mind all the things I know about my body. I might have some limitations, but I am learning each day to move around them and live my life to the fullest.
If you are still struggling with your illness or you are beginning your journey, please know, it will get better. Your life is worth living. And I am here to help you out if you ever need it.