I can’t speak for everyone because we are all different. But living with a chronic illness is often misunderstood.
Imagine that the next time you get one of those horrid colds that knock you off your feet, disturb your sleep and make you feel like crap for a few days.
Then you get better and go back to normal, glad that it’s over, you survived intact.
Now imagine you don’t get better and it just carries on like that for weeks on end. Or maybe it gets better for a while but you know it will be back again in a week or two. That’s what living with a chronic illness is like.
The Spoon Theory
A lot of people refer to the Spoon theory. When you are not well you can imagine a day where you wake up with a number of spoons. Then after every activity you take away a spoon until there are none left. Sometimes they can last all day and you may even have an extra one for the next day. But you can also have days where the spoons get spent very quickly and you are left unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. You can even overdo things one day, leaving you with fewer spoons for the next day.
A lot of chronically ill people refer to themselves as spoonies, I am a spoonie.
Three years ago I was taken ill quite suddenly. I don’t know what caused it but I’ve learnt since that shocks can trigger your body into attacking itself. And I’d had a shock when my Father-in-Law had suddenly dropped dead in front of me with a heart attack,while I was taking him for a hospital appointment.
Two days later I was back in the same hospital myself, virtually paralysed. Totally numb. I was originally diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and told I would recover within a couple of months. A year later I was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome plus PERM and told that recovery was unlikely.
Things I have Learned Since I Have Had a Chronic Illness
Life with a chronic illness is hard, harder than you can imagine.
Life is also difficult for loved ones, they have to watch you suffer and see someone they depended on become someone they have to look after instead.
It’s difficult to carry on with a normal lifestyle, even if you are well enough to continue working you will need to take lots of time off sick.
It’s hard being a Mum, especially when your child needs you and you can’t be there for them.
You’re mental health deteriorates, you may start out feeling positive that you can beat the illness, but as time goes by you feel like it’s just not worth living any more.
People don’t like to be around sick people.
You find that people just don’t understand how you can be ill so often.
People stop asking how you are.
You stop being invited to events because people just assume you won’t be well enough to go.
It’s difficult to plan for anything because you don’t know if you will be well enough.
A lot of partners cannot cope with life with a chronically ill person and decide to leave them.
It’s amazing what a difference having a positive attitude can have. I am not always positive, but when I pull myself out of my self-pity and hold my head up I feel so much better.
Life is not always easy, not for anyone whether you have a chronic illness or not. But, it’s up to you how you approach life, how you deal with it, that makes things better. I may not find any relief from my pain, but it certainly makes me feel better when I can laugh and have fun with friends and family.
I’ve just had an awful weekend, I’m not sure if it was side effects from my infusions, or related to something else but I really was ill. I could barely do anything but watch television. My family just left me to it. But there is only so much I can take, I will push myself to do things, not give in to the pain, probably even make myself feel worse in the end. But, in my mind I want to be the winner, not the giver upper!
There has to be a balance though. Sometimes when you are rock bottom it’s okay to admit it and give in, so long as you are willing to fight for it when you are ready. I gave in, I watched 3 hours of Friends and 4 hours of Doctor Who over the weekend. I’d had enough by then, enough lying around and giving in. But I’d also allowed myself to wallow and rest. It was time to fight.
One day I know the fight will be gone, but until then I’m going to polish my spoons and keep on keeping on.