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Why Having a Chronic Illness Never Makes You a 'Burden'

I’ve had a chronic health condition for seven years and even though that’s a long time, I feel as if I’m only just getting my head around it now.

For all of that time I’ve been incredibly lucky to have an amazing, strong support network in the form of my Mum and Dad. They cut their work hours to care for me, helping me shower, feeding me and tucking me into bed more times than I can remember when I had fatigue.

This year I have been even more lucky to start dating my best friend of four years. A boy who knows me better than anyone else, who is the kindest, most caring and understanding person I’ve ever met. I’ve never felt happier with another person, yet somehow I’ve found it hard to adjust to another person helping look after me.

“Looking after” can entail: helping me carry my bags, sitting down with me while I catch my breath, understanding and respecting many early nights, reading to me when the brain fog steals my understanding of written words… The list is endless. It also means that sometimes (in fact, most of the time) we have to leave events early as “I’m good” quickly turns into “I need to go” without much warning.

For some reason this is where I’ve struggled. Despite not feeling guilty about needing assistance from my Mum and Dad in terms of a chaperone or transport (as I can’t drive), I have found myself feeling like an albatross simply because a person is choosing to help me. Bringing out all the imagery of the bird from the famous poem, like a weight holding others down.

It’s after a few weeks of feeling like this that I suddenly looked in the mirror and thought, “Mol, what’re you doing?”

I would never ever have felt in any way a burden if I was ill years ago, so why, just because I need more help now, do I feel bad or guilty for needing help? On reflection it’s so silly to think like this. Anyone who chooses to be in your life will know and love you for you.

I wanted to write this for anyone feeling the same to know you’re not alone. While it’s not our fault we feel this way, it isn’t right and you shouldn’t put yourself down.

As I vow to take active steps to ignore the negative or doubting voice I get with fatigue and I invite you to too. When I even have the smallest niggle of self-doubt I want to remind myself of the below:

Remember that no part of you is a burden.

It is not your fault you can’t do things as easily or for as long as others. If people don’t respect how much harder it can be for you then it’s their problem.

You are amazing. Just like every being on the planet you are capable of amazing things. No more or less than anyone else.

Facing adversity of any kind makes you strong.

It’s OK to ask for help and you certainly should if needed. Especially don’t turn down help if someone offers because you want to do it yourself. Try to be gracious and welcoming to this.

While remembering these things, always stay grateful and humble for help you receive.

Remember that people get ill all the time. It doesn’t make you a “burden,” it makes you exactly the same as you always were with something else you just have to manage.

Getty photo by patronestaff