There are a lot of chronic illnesses, more than I could name. Which is quite unfortunate, but life would just be too easy if there was a cure for everything, right? The thing with chronic illnesses is that many of them aren't able to be seen externally and typically you wouldn't ever think about them until it's something you have to endure personally. But trust me, you don't want to have to do that. I'm not writing this to get you to have a pity part with me or to make you feel bad for me and others like me. I simply would just like to give you a better understanding of what it's like to live this way so that maybe when you encounter someone suffering from a chronic illness you can show them empathy and respect.
I think one of the biggest struggles that come from living with a chronic illness is the tiredness and fatigue it brings some or most days. And no, it is not the same feeling as being sleepy because you stayed up late binge-watching Netflix and so you only got 4 hours of sleep. The best way I could describe it is to say that it feels like you're trudging through quicksand just to make it from your bed across the hall to the bathroom. Your body just feels exhausted and worn out and any minuscule task seems like it takes an excessive amount of energy to complete.
When you are living with a chronic illness or multiple of them like me, it can feel like they take control of your life. It can control what you eat and drink and how much of it too, or what activities you can and can't do, or even what clothes you wear because sometimes symptoms can be external and they make you feel embarrassed and insecure so you want to hide whatever it is at all costs. We don't want to let it control us, but sometimes it wins.
Another struggle is that you never know what to expect when dealing with a chronic illness. Some days are good, some days are bad, and some days are worse. But waking up, you never know which it will be. You never know which symptoms will flare up or if they will at all. You don't know if you will be capable of doing the same things that you did today, tomorrow. Sometimes symptoms of a chronic illness such as fatigue, nausea, or vertigo, just to provide a few examples, can be so severe that they quite literally are debilitating. But, you can't see these things on someone. It's invisible to you unless you are the one feeling it.
Invisibility is one of the hardest parts of having a chronic illness. Because it can be invisible to others, no one understands it and some don't want to take the time to understand it. The effects that chronic illnesses have on our bodies, and our state of mind, and our quality of life are absolutely real. You might not be able to see it, but I am sick. People with chronic illnesses are sick. So, yes, sometimes plans have to be canceled last minute and some days I truly am not physically able to get out of bed and I miss work and school and my to-do list doesn't get done and it is completely valid. It even causes me to feel guilty, but we're not faking it, we're not just lazy and unmotivated. We're sick and we're doing our best. And, no, it's not glamorous at all so don't tell people they're lucky they get to stay in bed all day and they're lucky they don't have to work or go to class or they're lucky that they get to eat the way they have to eat because of their illness and how you wish that is how it was for you too. We're not lucky, and I promise if your wish got granted you would take it back in a heartbeat.
I do my best to stay positive every day and not let these things hold me back. I do know that there are people who have it worse so I am thankful that I am in the condition that I'm in. It's still hard though. Like I said, I don't want your pity I just want you to understand. When you understand, it makes it easier for me and others like me to be open about our illness and it's limitations.
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