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The Day It Hit Me That ‘Chronic’ Illness Means ‘For Good’

Chronic illness has been a part of my life for four years now. Clearly, chronic means “of a long duration.” I thought this would have sunk in by now, and as days passed, learning how to cope would become easier and clearer. To my surprise, I thought wrong and was not prepared for accepting that chronic meant we would be tied at the hip for good. My illness has been and will always be a part of me, and no matter what I do or how hard I try, there will be no getting rid of it.

It was a sunny, 70-degree Wednesday, that transition day from winter to spring, and everyone surrounding me had high spirits. My classmates were preparing to leave for their senior trip to Walt Disney World on Thursday and had spring break to look forward to, it was a beautiful day outside, and my family was out doing enjoyable activities. Me, I was drowning in my studies, unable to attend senior trip due to my illness, going to the gym to do my physical therapy, and was emotionally and physically exhausted. I struggled to put my emotions into words. I was confused about what I was feeling — how could I explain it to someone else? I went about my day convincing myself that I was OK, although I later learned that I was far from it.

I walked into my psychologist’s office peppy as can be. After all, pushing through and painting a smile on my face usually got me through my rough days. Less than five minutes into the session, my thoughts came to the surface, overflowing my brain with depressing thoughts to say the least. I began to find the words to describe how I was feeling. “I’m physically and mentally exhausted. I’m overwhelmed with everything I need to do and can’t catch a break. I have no choice but to fight, ultimately to fight for my life, but the truth is I’m tired of fighting and don’t want to do it anymore. I’m trapped and there is no way out.”  I cried and cried, denying I had gotten to the point I promised myself I would never get to.

After 45 minutes of discussion, it confirmed my theory that I truly am trapped in a life of chronic illness and I will not be able to escape. It didn’t end on a happy note, but it did allow me to express my feelings to somebody with open ears who could sit there and sympathize with me in a time of need. I left crying and spent my ride home crying. I guess it’s true not every story has a happy ending, and I would have to become familiar with this — although that does not mean I don’t have the power to create the story of my life.

back of woman raising her arms overlooking nature

Nobody said it was going to be easy, but in my opinion, a life of letting chronic illness control you is a life wasted. I would beat what life has thrown in my direction, maybe not in a way I originally wanted, but in a way where I can enjoy myself, live and be happy and successful just like anyone else. I will have to earn it, but it’ll be worth it. I’m stronger than a life of chronic illness. I could sit here and be upset and give up on everything, but what good would that do me? Sometimes in life we must make the best out of the situations that are thrown in our direction.

That day it finally hit me that chronic means for good, or for as long as I live. But “as long as I live” is the positive way I will view my situation. I may not know why my life is the way it is, but I do know something great is going to come out of it. When I feel like giving up, I will reward myself with the friendly reminder that with every day that passes I will grow stronger.

So to the person who is tired of being physically and mentally exhausted: Go out and push through, but reward yourself by doing something you enjoy. Go for a car ride, hike, go to the beach or feel the wind on your face, because the little things in life are worth living for.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.