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Why I Won't Apologize for Being 'Chronically Unreliable'

The word “unreliable” has become an insult — in a world of social media and smart phones, everyone should be available 24/7. And this is heightened on a university campus, when most events are spontaneous or last-minute. But this causes issues, especially for those who, like me, live with a chronic illness.

Last week I had a bad flare-up, and on Wednesday I had three plans I had to cancel last minute. I know what you’re thinking: “If you knew you were in a flare-up, you could have cancelled the day before. You didn’t have to leave it until that morning.” Which is right. I could have cancelled everything the day before. But then what would happen if I woke up on Wednesday morning and felt well enough to go? It’s hard to “un-cancel.”

What many don’t understand is that my condition varies every single day.

Some days I can go to a full day of classes and then go out with friends in the evening. Some days I can barely get out of bed. And as the number of bad days is increasing, it’s become even more important that I don’t cancel plans until the very last minute.

For a while, I did the opposite. I assumed that I wouldn’t be well enough to attend events, so I didn’t plan to. I knew that if I had to cancel at the last minute, I would feel incapable and my friends would be annoyed. So I did very little and became isolated.

Then I realized an important truth: the people who know and love me will understand that I’m unreliable.

I will not see being “unreliable” as an insult anymore. I am unreliable because of my chronic illness, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, not because of my disregard for other people.

I am unreliable because my body is more unreliable than the average person’s, and I cannot apologize for that.

My condition varies every day and because of that, I will never be a reliable person for as long as I am sick. And that is OK.