To Those Comparing Themselves to Healthy Friends After Their Chronic Illness Diagnosis
There is one thing in common between becoming diagnosed with a chronic illness and losing a loved one: the seven stages of grief, known as shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression and finally acceptance. These seven emotions are also often felt by people experiencing the day-to-day struggles of living with a chronic illness, as well as the recently diagnosed. But there is one stage not listed in this less-than-stellar lineup: comparison.
The rude awakening of a diagnosis, and feeling like your life was stolen from you after one life-changing doctor’s appointment may come with weeks and months of comparing yourself to others without this chronic illness.
Learning to accept the illness is only half of the battle. The other half is living with the physiological symptoms of them. They are both equally painful.
Having to stay behind while friends go out to eat or having to turn down a delicious cookie because it has too much chocolate in it, which would provoke a migraine, constantly reminds me that my life is not like my peers.
Over the past two years of struggling with chronic illness, I have experienced every one of the seven stages of grief. None of them are easier than others to handle and they get progressively harder each time a new emotion appears. However, by far comparison is the one that is the hardest for me to cope with each day. Comparing myself to friends who can run a 5K or get straight A’s and graduate cum laude is stress-inducing on its own, let alone trying to achieve these feats when living with a chronic illness.
Every day, my life has been scaled down to a microscopic level. Everything from making sure I go to bed before 10 p.m. and hoping I am strong enough to get from a prone to a supine position without syncope, or even little things like walking up three flights of steps to get to my classes on the third floor.
I think comparing yourself to your other healthy peers is disrespectful and degrading to yourself. Your first priority is becoming as healthy and strong as possible during the day, and the rest falls into place. Teacher yells at you for being late? Be happy you were able to come to school today! Friend gets annoyed for canceling plans? Remember that she hasn’t walked a mile in your shoes.
I hope if you take nothing else from this article, it is to be kind to yourself. It is not easy accepting and coping with a chronic illness, yet it becomes your lifestyle very quickly. Each time you start to compare yourself to others without chronic illnesses, whatever they may be, remember that the hand of cards you are dealt means that you are strong enough to handle them and, I believe, still succeed.
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.