When Life Is Like a Game of Monopoly and Chronic Illness Is My Opponent

Last night, I achieved what felt like a win at my weekly swimming class. Feeling proud, I posted on Facebook: “Viki 1: Chronic Illness: 0.”

This morning, I awoke with clear evidence of the worst sleep I’ve had in awhile… bed a scrambled egg, myself in pain, with double vision… I did not want to leave the safety of my dark room.

It confirmed to me what I had decided the night before, after I wrote that post.

I am living a game of strategy and chance — a lifelong game of Monopoly.

And Chronic Illness is my opponent.

It’s strategies are to eat my mind, play with my vision and coordination, attack my digestion, squeeze my lungs and heart, freeze me and send my senses afire. To manipulate my body into pain, discomfort, stiffness. Just to name a few.

My strategies are stillness, diet, exercise (yoga and tai chi count in my manual), mugs of warm water, sunglasses, layers, Neko Atsume and cuddles.

Chance Cards include genuine enjoyment, the energy to pursue hobbies like coloring and gaming, and a test or treatment to try. Or, anything outside my control that can increase the challenge of the game.

And Chance is also, for both of us, a roll of the die. Which symptoms will we have today? Will there be a Property to purchase?

All my Properties are medical. Prescriptions, equipment, treatment, appointments, tests. These are also expensive. I haven’t noticed my opponent spending, unless it uses my energy as currency. And come to think of it, I wonder if they’re actually the self-nominated Banker. And cheating. When I pass Go, I don’t collect $200, I just keep going. Although occasionally I do go straight to jail… the hospital.

Community Chest is a good one. These cards are my people — those that empathize and offer support in any way. It means I’m not playing the game entirely alone. And faith… but that’s a topic for another conversation.

But my opponent draws on its own team, too. It’s uncertain how big it is. Like so many chronic illnesses, mine is invisible. So far, I know there are two key Illness members: Physical and Mental. Physical Illness is evasive, unidentifiable. “It” could be “them.” Tests all show me to be an essentially healthy individual. Just some odd markers that don’t trace to anything specific. Mental Illness I can name, and “it” is “them:” Depression and Anxiety.

There have been times when I have been so tempted to throw the board and never play again. But I don’t. Somehow, I still maintain just enough strength to keep rolling the die and sliding my spoon around the board.

Today is another day, another set of turns. Chronic Illness and I will play for as long as I possibly can. Because for me, I have decided, life goes on despite the game. And I live in spite of my opponent.

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