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To Anyone Else Craving Recognition for Getting Through the Day With Chronic Illness

Sometimes I crave acknowledgment for the illnesses I have.

I know that might almost sound like I’m attempting to romanticize chronic illness. Like I want to be celebrated for my tremulousness, my pain, my weakness.

I don’t.

The author feeding a horse

I previously had dreams of representing my country at the Olympics — far fetched, I know, but nonetheless an aspiration. I grew up on my skis, developed an unbreakable love for horses, and developed my dreams through those sports, standing on the podium surrounded by some of my best friends, feeling the exhilaration of racing and competing, doing what I (naively) believed I was born to do, and would only improve at throughout my life. My dreams of success and the podium grew as I developed into an older, somewhat mature and athletic girl on the verge of womanhood in her last year of school.

I believe it’s human nature to crave some form of success or acknowledgement for your hard work. That’s what I tell myself at least.

So when I lost everything, including my health, I held onto my dreams of success, I held on to my goals. Just in case.

I remained hopeful that, should I one day would recover from this incurable chronic illness, I’d swing my leg over, sit in the saddle like I was born to, and ride into the arena again. I remained hopeful that one day, I’d step into my skis, push out of the start gate with all my strength and carve my way through the gates with the finesse I once possessed.

As my illnesses progressed and my list of diagnoses grew — fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, dysautonomia and migraine associated vertigo — my future seemed less likely, further away, suddenly impossible.

I wake up in the morning to fatigue, a handful of different forms of pain and dizziness. I know from experience that the day will only progress to exhaustion so severe, it would become an effort to lift a finger, consumed by pain that would leave me feeling fragile. Some mornings I have to acknowledge that a day in bed is my only option.

My illnesses became my future, all I could see. They consumed me.

My life became filled with commiseration rather than celebration. I held a loose grip on my goals but came to accept that they weren’t realistic at that stage. “Maybe one day,” I’d say.

But I still wanted to celebrate. I wanted acknowledgment for the fact that I dragged myself through quicksand every day, just to do it again the next. Just sometimes, I’d like to be told, “Good job, you’re doing good.” I crave the idea of someone saying that they’re proud of me. I crave recognition — that although I’m not contributing to society in the same way or doing anything extraordinary anymore, I’m still working hard, and I’m still valid.

So if you’ve fought to get through the day — even if you couldn’t get out of bed, if your day is only just beginning and you’re already dreading how you’ll find yourself at the end of it, here is your reminder that you’re a fighter. That you are capable — look at you go!

Because this is your pain, in your body, and other people, no matter how much they love you, may not see that all the time — even though you feel it all the time. Tell yourself you’ve done a great job, because our struggle isn’t always visible to everyone, and they can’t always let you know.

Celebrate yourself.

Illustrated photo via Thinkstock Images