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How Love Gets Me Through Life With Chronic Illness

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about love, with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. 2017 was another hellish year for me. Another year of tortuous medical procedures, bad results, difficult doctors and disappointment; another year of missing out, losing friends and not being capable of what I want to be doing. Oh what joy. And this year hasn’t started off much differently.

But one thing keeps me alive: love. Cheesy? Yes. But also true.

I want to write about things that are easy; I want to write light, whimsical pieces about airy, uplifting topics. And I thought love would be the ideal choice for such a piece. But achieving such delicacy never seems to be possible for me – if I’m writing honestly. Though I want so badly for things to be easy, they’re not. Every day I have to fight against sickness, pain and disappointment.

But on reflection, I remind myself that real love isn’t about easy. Writing a piece that’s all about the painless, clean parts of love would be incomplete. The people who truly love you aren’t just present for the good and the light and airy. Real love is real because it remains through the deepest darkness.

Real love is the kind of love that’s given freely – the kind of love you never feel you deserve, but that flows continuously regardless. Love’s continuity is key: real love may wane at times, but it remains ever-present. Love withstands whatever hellfire may rain down on it. At times real love may be beaten, battered and barely breathing. But it never dies.

I recently realized that being chronically ill is like having a wound that is never left to heal. Each worsening of symptoms, each new diagnosis, each loss of ability is a fresh opening of a wound that heals slowly as you readjust your entire being around each new rupturing. You might hope or have faith that the wound will heal, but then it is slit wide open again, afresh.

And every single time that wound is split open and my world falls apart once again, the only thing I find left to sustain me is the love I’m shown. Love alone refuses to abandon me. I can’t think of another force on earth powerful enough to sustain a person through the violence that comes with the cyclical nature of chronic illness – declining, adjusting, healing and then declining and beginning again. Love must be incredibly powerful to sustain a person when they know it’s likely this violent cycle will continue for the duration of their life.

Every single time the cycle of chronic illness begins again, I’m stunned there are still people next to me, people who have been with me through it all, people whom I can rely on to love me steadily through the violent cycle of chronic illness. That’s what’s particularly amazing to me: their love is unflinching. They know as well as I do that this process is just going to happen again, and again, and again. They don’t have to continue watching me suffer, listening to me whine, picking up the pieces and putting them back together, only to see them shatter all over again. They know the act is essentially futile, but they try anyways. That has to be devastating. And that’s love. Beautifully devastating and devastatingly beautiful.

man and woman holding hands on the beach

I truly feel that love is what has kept me alive through my illness and throughout my entire life. I’m incredibly fortunate to have experienced this real love my entire life. To say that I’m fortunate is an understatement. My life may be fraught with constant pain, but that pain is always outweighed by the love that I’m shown. “Love is all you need,” my friends.

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