What It Takes to Make a Cup of Tea With My Chronic Illness

Everyone loves a good “cuppa,” even sick people. Actually, especially sick people.

The thing about my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS, hypermobility type) is one day I’ll make a cup of tea without even thinking about it, but then the next day it might not be so easy. This is true for so many people suffering with chronic illness and pain. One of my difficult days can be brought on through frivolous activity the day before. You know, like meeting a friend for lunch. Sometimes my sacroiliac joint in my pelvis pops out doing little things like bending over to the bin or dishwasher. I’ve never heard such a “first world issue” as being too sore to get your cafetière out of the dishwasher! Sometimes I fall getting out the shower, but sometimes I really hurt my shoulder just brushing my hair. When I’m really lucky, my hormones just decide to make everything ache like I have the flu on top of any current joint injuries.

But I really want a cup of tea.

This is how it goes on a bad day:

1. First I need to boil the kettle. But picking up the kettle hurts my hands, but it is also like a pile driver into my lower back. So, I fill the kettle up to the minimum level using one of those American style red cups.

2. I need a mug. But I need a mug with a big handle because my fingers are painful and swollen. That’s OK. I have two that fit the bill, but my boyfriend has put them away on the bottom shelf of the ground cupboard. I’ll just slowly lower myself to my hands and knees for a mug. Ouch.

3. Tea bag? Yeah, those are on a high shelf because our kitchen is tiny. They are within reach but it causes a jolt of pain down my shoulder. That happens a lot. The lid on the tin isn’t tight by any means but my fingers feel like they have been run over by a tank, so that hurts too.

4. I pour in the water with the concentration of a mother clipping her wriggling child’s toenails. This bit often goes wrong and I end up with a flood of boiling water due to my wrists giving out or the pain in my back making me flinch.

5. I let a few minutes pass, I weigh up whether it’s worth sitting down and then struggling to get back up – usually I try and wipe up the surfaces while I stand. If I sit down, there is a very strong possibility that I will forget about it and will later discover a lonely, cold cup of very strong tea on my counter.

6. Milk. When four pints of milk are called for in a week, it seems perfectly logical to buy four individual pints of milk. Why? Because no cup of tea is worth me trying to lift four kilograms of milk out of the fridge.

7. I remove my teabag, carefully. I try not to drop it on the floor because that’s “game over.” If I do that, I sometimes have to leave it there all day and get my partner to move it when he gets home. It really frustrates me.

8. The bin — my arch nemesis. I have to do a sort of side lean into the bin because bending over straight feels like the fire of a thousand suns in my back. I guess I could dump the teabag in the sink, but I judge people pretty harshly for that.

9. Now I get to sit down with my cuppa. Don’t fall – please ankles, behave. Don’t drop it – c’mon hands, don’t be jerks. Don’t slip on the tea-trail you left on the way to the bin. Yes! I got back to the sofa.

Now I want a biscuit…

Follow this journey on Broken Down Body

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

mother holding foot babymother holding hand baby

To the Public Health Nurse Who Gave Me Courage as a Medical Mama

Dear Public Health Nurse, You saved me. You probably aren’t aware of the impact you have had on my family, but I want to tell you that you saved me. You first started coming to our house two years ago to do weekly weight checks on my son Davy, who had recently gotten his G-tube. [...]
Jennie and her significant other.

Why I Can't Get Legally Married Because of My Disability

Imagine having to choose between your life and marrying your significant other. Many people are unaware that people with disabilities experience the unfair choice of legal marriage versus loss of benefits. Because I have two rare chronic illnesses, Blau syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, I not only lose my disability benefits if I choose to marry, [...]
woman writing

To My Date Who Told Me I Was ‘Held Together With Duct Tape and Glue’

For the most part, I believe people have good intentions and mean well, but they aren’t always able to find the right words. I’ve heard everything from misguided advice that wasn’t meant to hurt to bluntly being called “lazy.”  So I try to choose my battles wisely and usually ignore these things, but you crossed [...]
Woman carrying a bag of groceries

To the Customer Who Said I Am Part of the 'Weak Generation'

I was bagging your groceries. You handed me a large canvas bag and told me to fit as much as I could. I loaded a few in to create a stable bottom and put the bag in the cart. You quickly stated, “I want more in the bag.” I told you I wouldn’t be able to lift [...]