Confessions of the Chronically Ill
Co-Written by myself & contributor Amy Nora When you have a chronic illness like Lupus there are going to be some thing's that you hold true. Things that you don't share with most people, things that you know most people don't want to know, or simply wouldn't understand. Things that you feel people who aren't sick would never understand. So as we have come to an end of the 2018 Lupus Awareness Month, I want to share some confessions from the chronically ill. Remember they might not be true for all chronically ill. This is based of the experiences/issues we have and deal with.
1. I often feel guilty --- Some of you are probably wondering why we would feel guilty. Well, there are a MILLION different reasons. We may feel guilty that we can't contribute to our families like we want to. Or we might feel guilty because we feel like we are a burden to our family and friends. Or because of the constants needs or help for basic daily life we need to ask of others. There are a million reasons why we might feel guilty.
2. I feel like I'm alone --- Again you may be wondering how we could feel alone when we have friends and family all around us. Well, that's simple, we may have people around us but they don't know the struggles we face everyday. So it's not so much that we may feel alone physically, it's more mentally and emotionally. Because most family and friends don't know what it's like to live our lives, and they can never truly understand our world. We try and protect them from what we go through, because as much as what we deal with, we also know that they feel a stress. This can intensify a lonliness. It creates a vicious cycle.
3. I often experience some level of anxiety and depression --- There are so many reasons we may feel this way. We could be anxious because we aren't feeling well and there's nothing we can do about. Or because there is something coming up that we aren't sure we have the energy or stamina for. On the other hand we could be depressed because we had to cancel ANOTHER date with a friend or our spouse. We might also be down because we feel terrible and have for awhile. That takes a toll on your mental health. The very nature of having a chronic illness creates a constant mental battle that is medically known to alter brain chemistry.
4. I am almost always in pain --- Even though you know I have pain medicine and have taken it. I am generally always hurting somewhere. NO, it's not searing, burning level 10 pain. It's more like a constant nagging annoying pain. Like a level 3 Pain. But it's usually constant. And chances are I won't say a word, and will often say "I'm fine" when asked. Just remember, your fine and my fine are not the same. Sometime ask, “No, how are you really doing today? I want to know. What can I do that would help you?” When in pain and tired, these words are a balm physically and mentally.
5. Every good day is truly a gift ---Sadly, we don't always have a LOT of GOOD days. So when I do I may need help remembering that this day is a gift and I should take full advantage of it. Do not make me feel guilty for having a good day, do not take my joy for this good day. I may have to pay for this good day for a week to come or a few days in bed or on the couch with pain, fatigue, or any combo of problems including infections.
6. I don't look sick --- Nine Times out of ten you wouldn't know by looking at us that we are sick. That our bodies are constantly at war with itself. We just look like average people on the outside, but inside we may be a disaster. Going out in public knowing that others can't see our illness can lead to feeling alone, or being anxious.
7. I am often afraid to work, make plans or have a life --- I know this one sounds silly. Why would anyone be afraid of those things? It's simply because we never know what our body is going to do. I may feel fine at 8am, but at 11am I may feel like I was hit by a bus. Our bodies change so quickly and often without reason. So we never know if we make a dinner plan for next Wednesday how we will feel. Every plan is made with the caveat of, “If I feel okay,” and buying tickets for an event is a terrifying exercise in wasting money and letting friends down.
8. Not all doctors understand --- Sadly, this is the case a lot of the time. I don't know how many times I've seen a doctor who's not my own and they know nothing about Lupus or how it impacts a person's life, body & health. The American Medical Association even acknowledges that auto-immune diseases are one of the most under taught areas in medical school because of their complexity. More times then not, as the patient you are educating the provider when you are already ill. At best, they believe you and do some additional research quickly to understand. At the worst, they do not listen and make medical decisions that do not help you are your condition because they do not understand fully how Lupus impacts you. Remember, Lupus effects each patient differently.This is just a few confessions of the chronically ill. I could probably write a book on things we feel but never share. We don't want pity so we often keep our issues to ourselves. We don't want to be judged or looked down upon because of our health. What we do want is for people to understand. Just this week, Toni Braxton tweeted a picture of herself, and people were quick to make a judgement that she had plastic surgery. No, she is on steroids for her Lupus. Know Lupus. Know that we deal with our body attacking us on a daily basis, and that no two cases are the same. Know that we keep our secrets to protect you, but know those come at a cost. So today…. We let a few cats out of the bag.
Amber & Amy