5 Feelings I Experienced After Becoming Chronically Ill
Since January of 2016, I have intensely experienced the various symptoms of Lyme disease. Before that January, I had lived most of my life relatively pain-free except for some fatigue – which was likely due to Lyme disease being dormant in my body. Therefore, when the Lyme disease came out of dormancy, I was unsure of how to react. This mysterious illness pummeled me into the ground. I experienced a whirlwind of emotions during this time. There is no way to comprehensively describe what it is like to suddenly become chronically ill, but these are some of the emotions I experienced when it happened to me.
Not everyone knows what it is like to suddenly wake up one day and be chronically ill every day for the rest of your life. Astonishment is one of the best words I can use to describe how I felt when that happened to me. When I began facing the symptoms of Lyme disease, I was in shock. One day I was fine and then the next day, I was curled up in a ball in my bed due to intense nausea. I had just started my second semester of college and never knew I would encounter an illness so debilitating at such a young age. Most people do not become chronically ill at 19 years old. I pictured myself being a typical, energetic college student who could stay up all night to finish assignments and still feel well enough to go to social events. I felt as if Lyme disease had drastically altered my visions of my college experience and possibly my future career. I began to feel uncertain about my life and the plans I was making for it.
Astonishment is an emotion I continue to experience in regards to my illness. Lyme disease is an ever-changing condition. My illness started out with mainly gastrointestinal symptoms and I woke up one day and could barely walk and I could not focus when people were talking to me. In addition, my condition is better some days than others. Then, when my condition changes, I am unable to predict it. After a year and a half of enduring this illness, I am still amazed at how rapidly my condition can change.
If you suddenly become chronically ill, you will likely develop a feeling of resentment towards your current state of health. You begin to wonder why this illness had to afflict you. You become angry because your friends cannot relate to you anymore and your chronic illness experience. In addition, your friends will sometimes not invite you for gathering because they figured, “You wouldn’t feel like coming.” You start questioning why you aren’t able to be healthy like most of the people you surround yourself with.
You may also become angry at yourself. You become somewhat depressed that you cannot participate in activities that used to be typical for you. Some days, you are unable to make it to the gym because you are too fatigued or are in too much pain to move. You are unable to help your friend move because you can’t lift boxes you used to be able to. You are unable to recall information as well as you used to. You begin to miss that independent person that was capable of so much and you wish you still had that to cherish. You also wish you could go back in time. You wish you could go back and do everything you wanted to do in your life when you were capable. You wish you could go back, eat a healthier diet and take care of yourself to see if that would prevent your illness. You struggle to accept everything that has been taken away from you.
When I became suddenly ill, I experienced a lot of fear. I feared I would never know what it is like to be pain-free again. I also feared I would not be able to live my life outside of my home. I was terrified of having a flare-up in public and being humiliated. This feeling has started to diminish as the illness stayed and intensified, but I was unable to predict how this illness was going to behave when I first began experiencing symptoms. The fear has followed me though, but I do not acknowledge its presence as much as I used to as I have adjusted to my life with Lyme disease. I have learned that the fear of my illness should not prevent me from living my life in case my illness decides to take it from me.
In my situation, I became ill and went undiagnosed for a year. I endured many medical tests and they would all come back negative. When tests came back negative for certain conditions, doctors would give up on trying to find answers. They were incredibly confused by my complex illness, so they abandoned me. I just wanted a doctor that was willing to help me and to get treatment for whatever it was that was afflicting me. During this time, I prayed every night to be provided with answers and/or have my illness improve or disappear. I also tried a wide variety of treatments because I was so desperate to get better, including homeopathic remedies and natural medicines. When I became suddenly ill, I craved having my old life back and I still do.
After a few weeks of being chronically ill, I had accepted that my life may never be the same again. I may never have another moment where I don’t experience relentless fatigue. I may never have another moment where I don’t experience pain. I had to accept this in order to move on with my life and adjust to living with a chronic illness. I did not want to spend the remainder of my life lying in my bed. I wanted to achieve more than that. In order to do so, I had to acknowledge that I may not be capable of doing the things I used to do or I may have to do them differently or at a slower pace. However, I also acknowledged that there was still so much I could achieve. Once I experienced this feeling of resignation, it motivated me to live my life despite grappling with a mysterious chronic illness.
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Thinkstock photo via Anna1000Arts.