If You Don't Have a Chronic Illness, This Is What I Need You to Know
It didn’t arrive like a devastating storm that overturned my life in its wake. It began as a tiny wind that eroded my life, growing in power and potency as years passed. The unexplained aches and pains, all dismissed under the label of “overthinking” and “excuses.”
Like many others, the pain I experienced was excruciating. I had to resort to painkillers at a young age and of course, I was shamed for it. More than once, I was awarded the title of hypochondriac. But all I wanted was to find out why I was in so much pain. Was I really so much weaker than everyone else? I constantly questioned myself. I desperately wanted a name so that people would acknowledge my pain and stop being so disappointed with me. The diabetes and the depression I was already going through multiplied my dis-ease so much more.
This story is not mine alone. Many voices go unheard and unheeded, just like mine.
Still, in all this time, battling so much, I’ve gained one thing positive. A profound appreciation of what the human body is actually capable of and the amount of work it takes for the simplest of actions that most people take for granted. Life is more precious to me now, especially the few moments of reprieve.
The pain stands testimony to what the human body is capable of. That level of pain and the types of different sensations it can cause without a corporeal trigger is very illuminating about the complexity of the human body and the simple functions that we perform without a thought.
Here are a few examples of things that most people take for granted:
1. Sitting straight. If you don’t have fibro or another pain-related chronic illness, you probably do not realize the energy and muscle coordination needed for something as simple as sitting straight. With the fatigue, the body feels like its pulling you down and your shoulders simply don’t have enough strength to hold you upright.
2. Getting up in the mornings, or just getting up. Believe it or not, it is actually incredibly difficult to get up from where we’re seated and cross the room. Yes, I know it sounds absurd. But honestly, it’s not. With the constant pain, just moving one’s body is an onerous task because it hurts. It hurts just to move, turn your neck or sometimes even blink. The fatigue makes you feel super heavy, like you’re trying to wade through wet cement.
3. Walking. Most of the times, just stepping out to buy groceries is like climbing a mountain in the freezing cold. Mind and body sluggish and each step a fresh jolt of pain up your legs. Socializing or working is very, very difficult.
4. Looking happy. The effort to keep the exhaustion from your face is ironically, very exhausting and stressful. It’s a constant strain to keep facial muscles tight and eyes focused and alert.
5. Remembering things. There’s something known as fibro fog. The mind feels constantly foggy and you tend to forget stuff you did and said – even one minute after you’ve done them. That vague sense of having forgotten something is ever present. It gets you into all kinds of trouble with people.
6. Talking. Strangely enough, talking is one of the most stressful activities. The fatigue and pain can render you breathless within two minutes. Conversations are too tiring, especially on the phone, because your hands feel too exhausted to hold one.
Apart from the physical pain, these problems severely restrict you from being social. More than our capability to bear the stress of a social setting, it is the judgment that comes from people around us. Socializing charges a fee of being “entertaining” and with such energy constraints it is nearly an impossible task.
Understand us and appreciate your own good fortune. Good health is a more precious gift than you know. Cherish the ability to function without all the pain and difficulties. Take pleasure in a simple walk, the fact that you can walk without wincing or crying. Take a moment to be grateful that you can hold a regular job even if it’s not your dream one. Life may not be going as you planned, but with good health you have the power to forge your own path. At any, moment you can pick up the gauntlet and battle on. So seize it.
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Gettyimage by: cerenatalay