10 Truths About Being Chronically Ill

10 Truths About Being Chronically Ill

For Those Of You That Are Chronically Ill, This Is For You.
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Being chronically ill is very hard to cope with. It is even harder when very few people around us truly understand. For those who are chronically ill, this is for you.

1. I’m okay is the biggest lie you will ever hear come from our mouths.

If we felt good, believe it you would know. We would be jumping for joy. Or more or less having a panic attack because to be honest, if I didn’t feel pain, I would think I was dead.

2. We shouldn’t have to prove to anyone that we are sick.

"But you don’t look sick" is flattering, but really we laugh to ourselves because on the inside we feel like we were hit by a bus. Or ten. It’s nice to not look sick but believe me, without the effort of getting ready (and laying down to rest between showers and blow drying your hair), you would definitely think different. But no matter how we feel we almost always get up, dress up, show up and never give up.

3. We learn not to chase people.

We know that we are here, and that we are important. Like everyone else we shouldn’t have to run after people to prove that we matter. However, when you are chronically ill it is hard to keep the people who don’t try to understand close, and that’s when you start to find out who your true friends are. For me, it took time to stand up for myself. Not caring what other people think is the best decision I could have made moving forward. If someone can’t take the time to understand you or listen, then they don’t deserve to be your friend; especially when you will bend over backwards for them. We often care too much about other people. Next time you find yourself going out of your way for someone who truly doesn’t understand, ask yourself if they would do the same things for you. The answer is probably not.

4. One of the hardest things about being chronically ill is the mental aspects that come with it.

The anxiety, The PTSD, the fear, the paranoia--it can all make you feel crazy on top of being sick. You are not crazy, you are human and you are doing the best you can. Do not be ashamed of yourself to take time for you, to have a bad day, or to even need medication. We have been through a lot more than the average person, and you have every right to feel the way you do.

5. It is hard to explain to other people that just because we do things doesn’t mean we are better or have experienced a revival.

It simply means we had a decent day. What comes with leaving the house and getting out is much different than someone who is living a normal life. Getting ready exhausts us, we can barely wake up, the anxiety that comes with leaving, or the medicine regimens we take before we leave, none of it is easy. We fake it till we make it.

6. We cannot stand to hear people complaining about their job or school.

Most of us would give our right arm to be doing that. Staying home from school is not fun, I feel like a stay at home mom at the age of 21 without the being a mom part, and with barely any money. So next time you think about complaining about living a normal life think to yourself, what if that was all taken away? What if every day was consumed with living in chronic pain. Then you would realize to never take a day for granted.

7. We take things out on those that we love.

Talking about something you live and go through daily isn’t easy to talk about, your life is already consumed with the idea of being “sick”. Often times we keep too much in so we don’t feel like a nuisance, or so we don’t make our loved ones upset or scared. Bottling up these emotions sometimes can make us a little on edge. We get agitated and moody, we don’t mean it; we are doing the best we can and we love you for loving us anyways!

8. It is hard to except that you are incapable of being independent.

I don’t like asking my parents for money because I cant hold a full time job; and it is extremely hard to watch them dish out money on your health bills. We don’t like the days we are so sick that our moms are our nurses, and make us food and keep us hydrated. It is an awful feeling to need your Dad to carry you up the stairs when you are too weak to walk at 16 and 21 years old. We feel bad when our parents or a loved one has to drop everything to take us to the hospital. Unfortunately, when you are chronically ill you have to accept that being independent can wait until you are better.

9. We can’t do what everyone else does.

That is hard for most chronically ill patients to accept. We so badly want to live a normal life, and to live for what we have missed out on. Sometimes it is hard to make the right choice, but we eventually learn that sometimes saying no is the best thing we can do for our health. Stay up all night? Not a chance. When I had to pull an all-nighter for finals, I wasn’t just tired the next day. Everything hurt and I thought I was dying. Sleep is so important. Many of us cannot eat a normal diet and therefore cannot eat whatever we want. Go out every night of the weekend? Do remember I am a 21 year old in a 100 year olds body. We need our rest, even after just running errands for a couple hours or exercising. The smallest things exhaust us, and that is never fun.

10. We do not give up easily.

We have come so far. We continue to seek help, go to our countless doctor's appointments, receive our treatments; whatever it takes. Every day is a battle, and the end of every day is an accomplishment. We got through the day, no matter how bad it was we live for our good days. Staying positive is not easy, but we learn to do the best we can.

I recently came across the quote “In a world where you can be anything, be kind." Those words are so powerful. Kindness and understanding from people around us is what gives us the motivation to pull through, so please don’t ever forget that. Just being kind you are changing a frown to a smile, making someone’s day; or changing their life. Don’t think about it, Just do it. You will find yourself happier too.

Much Love & Stay Strong,

Tori Ashdown xoxo

Cover Image Credit: Ashdown

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8 Struggles Of Being 21 And Looking 12

The struggle is real, my friends.
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“You'll appreciate it when you're older." Do you know how many times my mom has told me this? Too many to count. Every time I complain about looking young that is the response I get. I know she's right, I will love looking young when I'm in my 40s. However, looking young is a real struggle in your 20s. Here's what we have to deal with:

1. Everyone thinks your younger sister or brother is the older one.

True story: someone actually thought my younger sister was my mom once. I've really gotten used to this but it still sucks.

2. You ALWAYS get carded.

Every. Single. Time. Since I know I look young, I never even bothered with a fake ID my first couple of years of college because I knew it would never work. If I'm being completely honest, I was nervous when I turned 21 that the bartender would think my real driver's license was a fake.

3. People look at your driver's license for an awkward amount of time.

So no one has actually thought my real driver's license is fake but that doesn't stop them from doing a double take and giving me *that look.* The look that says, “Wow, you don't look that old." And sometimes people will just flat out say that. The best part is this doesn't just happen when you're purchasing alcohol. This has happened to me at the movie theater.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things People Who Look 12 Hate Hearing

4. People will give you *that look* when they see you drinking alcohol.

You just want to turn around and scream “I'M 21, IT'S LEGAL. STOP JUDGING ME."

5. People are shocked to find out you're in college.

If I had a dollar for every time someone had a shocked expression on their face after I told them I'm a junior in college I could pay off all of my student loan debt. It's funny because when random people ask me how school is going, I pretty much assume they think I'm in high school and the shocked look on their face when I start to talk about my college classes confirms I'm right.

6. For some reason wearing your hair in a ponytail makes you look younger.

I don't understand this one but it's true. Especially if I don't have any makeup on I could honestly pass for a child.

7. Meeting an actual 12-year-old who looks older than you.

We all know one. That random 12-year-old who looks extremely mature for her age and you get angry because life isn't fair.

8. Being handed a kids' menu.

This is my personal favorite. It happens more often than it should. The best part of this is it's your turn to give someone a look. The look that says, "You've got to be kidding me".

Looking young is a real struggle and I don't think everyone realizes it. However, with all the struggles that come with looking young, we still take advantage of it. Have you ever gone to a museum or event where if you're under a certain age you get in for a discounted price? Yeah? Well, that's when I bet you wish you were us. And kids' meals are way cheaper than regular meals so there have definitely been a couple times when I've kept that kids' menu.

So, all in all, it's not the worst thing in the world but it's definitely a struggle.

Cover Image Credit: Jenna Collins

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Stop Saying, 'I Don’t Want To Get Diabetes,’ It's Rude And Ignorant To Those Who Are Type 1 Diabetic

Nobody wants to "get" diabetes, but some of us have no choice.

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This statement implies that is is a choice to be diagnosed with diabetes as if it is some very controllable condition where I have the ability to decide whether it affects me or not. This is not true.

When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes also known as juvenile diabetes because it typically, but is not limited to, beginning in adolescence. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition where my pancreas no longer produces insulin. This is caused by my immune system attacking the pancreas, ultimately destroying the cells that create insulin. As of right now, there is no explanation known for what ultimately makes the immune system do this, and there is no cure for the autoimmune condition.

Thus, as a type 1 diabetic, I have no choice but to be entirely insulin dependent. Whenever I consume carbohydrates, I must administer insulin to my bloodstream just like how non-diabetic people having a fully functioning pancreas that releases the same hormone whenever they introduce carbohydrates to their digestive systems. The amount of insulin that I administer is based on the number of carbs that I consume; the carbs per insulin unit ratio varies based on the individual and also has the potential to change just as how the pancreas secrets insulin within an individual's body at rates that are unknown. Therefore, finding ways to treat diabetes can be difficult for there lacks a "one size fits all" template for what works best for each diabetic. (This is important to keep in mind for all health conditions: what works well for one person does not necessarily mean that it will work well for a different person.)

There are a lot of other factors that are imperative for my mindful attention in order to stay healthy with this chronic condition. Monitoring blood sugar levels, counting carbohydrates, gaining a true sense of body awareness, and attending doctors appointments are some examples of these other factors that are necessary to keep on top of while living with type 1 diabetes. As you can tell, this chronic condition can easily become overwhelming.

Did I want to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? No.

Did I have a choice as to whether I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? No.

Do you have the ability to control what statements you make when speaking in public? Yes, you most certainly do.

I urge people to resist from saying the phrase, "I don't want to get diabetes" when offered dessert or saying something similar when asked why they are cutting back on how much sugar they include in their diet. Perhaps these comments are in reference to "getting" type 2 diabetes also known as adult-onset diabetes. This condition is different from type 1 diabetes in the sense that the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body has developed a resistance to the insulin that is produced; the body does not use insulin efficiently. Another difference is that type 2 diabetes can be influenced by the risk factors of obesity and family history. Finally, type 2 diabetes can also be reversed; this means that through lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, the effects of type 2 diabetes can be alleviated because the pancreas still does make insulin for type 2 diabetics. This is not the case for type 1 diabetes, thus, these are two different conditions.

So let's say that the ignorant comment of "I don't want to get diabetes" is made in reference to type 2 diabetes. This is still an awful thing to say. Of course, nobody "wants to get" diabetes; why would they? However, even in cases of type 2 diabetes, there are factors that are still beyond the individual's personal control, and even after the diagnosis occurs, as I stated earlier, there are differences in how each individual responds to treatment options. What works for one may not work for another.

Unfortunately, I have been in the presence of people who have made comments within this subject matter. Being a type 1 diabetic myself, the situation is incredibly awkward. Whether the person who made the statement knows that there is a diabetic present in the room or not, they should not be speaking like this. Making this comment implies that there is a concrete choice as to whether an individual is diagnosed with diabetes, of any type, or not. Making this comment implies that you, the commentator, is above those of us who are already diabetic; you are looking down on us in a way because your comment insinuates that you would never want to endure the lifestyle of a diabetic. Making this comment implies that you, the commenter, have no idea what the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes are, or that there even are different types of diabetes and how to distinguish between the complications of each. Making this comment implies that you, the commenter, are extremely, unmistakenly, ignorant.

In the instances that I have heard this quick comment be made, some people present in the room knew that I was type 1 diabetic and some people did not. Nobody pointed me out or made sideways glances at me to notice my facial expression. I was not offended by the comment, nor was I embarrassed that I am type 1 diabetic while there is this person saying that they "don't want" what I have. I was, however, extremely disappointed in the comment. I was partly disappointed in the commenter for making such an ignorant statement (that I am sure was probably not meant to be harmful at all), but I was also majorly disappointed in society as a whole. Instances like this have made me realize that, collectively, society is also ignorant of the differences between types of diabetes. Generalizing this condition can result in the cultivation of uncomfortable situations and an inability to understand the complications of each type of this condition.

Finally, and most importantly, whenever I endure experiences such as the one described, I am refreshed of just how utterly important it is for all of us to choose our words wisely and precisely. Even if we do not intend to cause harm by our words, the possibility of that happening is always present. When people say "I don't want to get diabetes," I am not sure they realize just how terrible this statement sounds leaving their lips. In my mind, my first reaction is that I would never say anything like this, but then again, I have this reaction because I am type 1 diabetic. Similarly, would you ever make the statement "I don't want to get cancer" when offered a free session in a tanning bed or "I don't want to get liver damage" when offered a beer? No, because there are so many genetic and epigenetic factors that can contribute to cancer diagnoses and the same goes for liver failure.

It sounds absurd to even read those two examples. How can somebody solely correlate tanning beds with "getting" cancer and beer with "getting" liver damage when there is an abundance of other contributing factors as well as different types of levels of severity regarding these health issues? Well, I ask myself the same question regarding the statement of "I don't want to get diabetes" when somebody is offered something sweet. How can somebody solely correlate sugar with "getting" diabetes when there are so many other factors that are potentially involved? While it is possible that these pairs are related in terms of causation to some extent (tanning beds/cancer, beer/liver damage, sugar/diabetes) there are so many things that we do not know exactly and making generalized statements like my examples above prove to be inappropriate.

It sounds absurd because it is absurd.

Thus, let's all strive to create an environment where we do not make people feel ashamed or uncomfortable based on ignorant statements regarding health conditions that we may or may not know anything about. You never know what people are going through or how a genetic condition, health issue, or disease affects them. Furthermore, you never know what health experiences you will one day be exposed to, whether that condition will affect you personally or if it will affect a close family member or friend. Either way, it will change your perspective immensely.

I vow to always choose my words carefully and thoughtfully to ensure that I can clearly articulate a point with consideration for whoever is present in my audience; you should too.

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