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What It Means to Be Chronically Ill


I am not that chronically ill person who “never complained.”

I am not that chronically ill person who is always good at pushing through.

But I learned one thing – to learn to be happy when I’m in pain. (Or dizzy, or nauseous, or whatever my primary symptom is.)

For the first three months of my chronic illness journey, I was a ray of sunshine. I saw this as a journey with an end date somewhere in close future, where a surgery or a treatment would “cure” me and I would close this chapter in my life… only to bring it back on college essays about bravery, and to do fundraiser once a year or so to help other that were left struggling.

That didn’t happen.

I was about five months in and realizing more and more everyday that this will not be an open and shut case. I began to become moody and angry. I was depressed and felt horrific. But then I went to the Mayo Clinic.

When I went to the Mayo Clinic, I was expecting a cure in the form of a medicine or a surgery. However, through the many days of road tripping, meeting new people, and exploring MedCity, I found a different type of cure. An emotional cure, that is. I learned I had to learn to be happy when I was pain.

Many of us are taught as children that sick means “sad.” For able-bodied people, this tends to be the case. But if live your life in pain, if you live by the “sick equals sad” philosophy, you will never be happy. I believe you must learn how to smile, laugh and have fun while you’re sore.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t wake up sometimes and grieve the body you once had. This doesn’t mean that someday it’s too much and you want just cry. Go ahead and cry.

This means learning what you need to do to manage your pain. This means using a cane, walker or wheelchair for the day when you have sore days. This means cutting out the thing you don’t enjoy or the people that don’t make you happy, so you can live your life to the fullest. This means finding friends who are OK with with all that comes with your illness. This means hearing a lot of, “You must feel good today since you’re out,” and having to shrug it off. But it also means taking back your life so you’re not only surviving with chronic pain, but you’re living.

I hope this information finds you in a time and place in which you can use it. Just remember, you can do it.

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Thinkstock Image By: tomorca