19 'Subtle' Ways Chronic Illness Affects Your Daily Life


Having a chronic illness can affect your life in many ways — from being unable to work or forcing you to skip out on a social life to dealing with painful physical symptoms that leave you in the hospital or at home for months. Chronic health conditions can also affect your daily life in more subtle ways — ones healthy people may not even consider or notice. Friends and family may not realize how tricky things like getting dressed, pushing a shopping cart, or taking a shower can become when you live with health challenges.

We wanted to know how chronic illness can change your life in less noticeable but nonetheless challenging ways. So we asked our Mighty community to share some subtle effects their illness has their daily life. While others may think the things you find challenging are “small,” they are anything but when you’re dealing with a health condition.

Here’s what our community told us:

1. “My wardrobe is very simple. Nothing that I may have to pull on or has tricky fasteners. No hard lines like zippers or thick belts. Items can’t be too heavy, and have to breath or let me easily adjust my body temperature.”

2. “Sometimes being in a social situation or even just shopping sends me into a panic. Not because of anxiety but because of the adrenaline that pumps through my body, the fact that I can hear, see, smell and feel everything 100 times stronger than I should be sensing it. An overwhelming urge to get away and be alone in the quiet safe space I have made for myself with myself, overtakes me as my eyes dart around the room looking for an escape. Sometimes this makes me snap at people, or act shy/stuck up. Most people don’t understand what’s happening and think it’s just how I am, or don’t notice at all.”

3. “Plans can change almost instantly with no warning. Not necessarily subtle, but one small problem can lead to another, to another, to another…”

4. “There’s a lot of compromise between myself and others, and myself and myself. While compromising with others is more embarrassing, compromising with myself is harder. It’s hard to admit I have so many limits, and harder to follow them. But I know if I don’t follow my limits one day, I’ll be even more limited the next.”

5. “I can’t go out unless I know where all the bathrooms are.”

6. “I can’t eat certain things if I’m alone. I can’t cut things like steak and pork chops by myself right now. I need someone else to do it. While I am at home, my father has to cut everything into fairly small bite-sized pieces. If I’m out with my boyfriend, I have to hand my plate to him so he can cut it up. You wouldn’t think something like that is an issue.”

7. “A drop in temperature changes cause my pain level to soar through the roof. I can’t go into walk-in freezers at Costco or it will cause me pain. If the car is warm and I go outside in the cold for even a few minutes it causes my pain to creep up and stay that way.”

8. “I am always thinking. Everything I do: tying my shoes, sitting down/getting up from the toilet, taking the two steps up to my front door… even how I position myself as I fall asleep. I am always super aware of how I’m moving my body. When I don’t pay attention, that’s when my joints slip out of place.”

9. “My fingers or hands hurt so I make choices of what to type or scroll through to use them as little as possible when they really bother me.”

10.When something as simple as sitting the wrong way or standing up takes effort, nearly everything becomes a labor or a chore. There is absolutely no room for spontaneity.”

11. “I break things almost every day because I drop things all the time.”

12.I can’t walk as fast as my young children. I’m having to constantly ask them to slow down for me when we are at a store. Also, stores without shopping carts are a no-go.”

13. “Picking out clothes is a much different ballgame. I have to consider being able to access my feeding tube at any given moment. If I want to tuck in a shirt, it has to have some kind of opening (such as buttons) in the front that allow me to be able to use my tube throughout the day.”

14. “I let my nails get too long because my hands shake too much to cut them.”

15. “I often forget that most people don’t have to set alarms for meds.”

16. “All the things I used to take for granted, I now actually have to think about. The stairs I go up and down every day at home and at work make me stop and think every time, ‘Which knee is my strong knee today? Should I start with my strong left knee or my right foot that Doesn’t have plantar fasciitis?’”

17. “I will usually lean against a wall, if I can, when I’m standing up because it tires me out so much and causes pain.”

18. “Putting my bra on! I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and risk popping a shoulder every time.”

19.The simple things can be the hardest sometimes. Just the act of pushing open a door is tedious and exhausting, and you don’t realize how weak you are until you go about these daily tasks.”



19 'Subtle' Ways Chronic Illness Affects Your Daily Life

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


Related to Chronic Illness

Illustration of person walking through pink fog

Feeling Alone With My Chronic Illness, Even When I’m Surrounded by People

The worst part of battling an invisible chronic illness to me is the constant feeling of loneliness, even when there are people all around me. The feeling of helplessness, fear and anxiety — and knowing this feeling won’t fade no matter how many people are in the room. Living with a chronic illness is hard. [...]

Robyn Rosenberger - Founder of TinySuperheroes

Robyn Rosenberger is not a seamstress by trade, but has turned this hobby into creating TinySuperheroes, a company that makes superhero capes for children with terminal illnesses.
woman takes photo of her feet while lying in bed for a medical test

When I Hoped a Test Would Find Something Wrong With Me

In the beginning of October, I participated in a fun-filled, five-hour excursion to the infusion room at a world-renowned university hospital. What did I do to earn this new multi-hour endurance test in a windowless room in the bowels of a building in a picturesque northern California town? Well, for starters, I’m not getting better. [...]

I Shouldn't Feel Guilty for How I Spend Money Donated to My Life With Chronic Illness

Yesterday I posted a picture to Facebook to show my newest hair color. I’ve taken to using bright colors from Manic Panic to cover my gray hairs, because it looks awesome, and it is kind of fun. Immediately after posting, I judged myself for doing so. Not only did I judge the picture, and offer [...]