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My 'Normal' Is Different Because of Chronic Illness, and That's OK

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I am chronically ill (I have Samter’s triad, osteoarthritis and IBS); yet I feel I’m often living in denial of that fact. I try every day to present as what I believe “normal” should be and I berate myself for my perceived weaknesses. I need to stop doing that.

I started taking a natural remedy a few months back that made me feel a lot better. The inflammation in my arthritic knee reduced, I was sleeping more and my pain levels were much more controlled. I got a bit excited about all of that, so I took the plunge and started reducing my prednisone. As a result, I started losing weight again, and life was looking pretty darn fine.

Until it wasn’t.

Over the past six-ish weeks, I have been so tired that I am struggling to function. Getting out of bed in the morning has become an epic battle every day. I have had a constant headache, have been experiencing a whole heap of anxiety over everyday things  I would usually take in my stride, and everything hurts. It got to the point I was going to quit dancing because of the joint and muscle pain.

When my doctor suggested a synacthen test to check my adrenal function, all of my symptoms collided and I knew what the test results would show.  Sure enough, it was a suboptimal result, which means I’m in adrenal insufficiency again, which means the exhaustion and anxiety and sore muscles and joints have a reason for being — which means I have to increase my prednisone again.

I am struggling enormously with that decision, and part of me wishes I could transport myself back into last week where I rationalized my symptoms. I was tired because of the change to daylight savings, and I was anxious because I was stressed about my arthritis worsening.

Today, I don’t have to accept that life has become smaller again. All I need to do is acknowledge that I am chronically ill, and that prednisone is a wonder drug, even though it has caused my adrenal insufficiency. Prednisone has helped me to live my life; without it, there is a strong likelihood I wouldn’t have survived my childhood. I wouldn’t have had my children and I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I need to toss away that notion of “normal” and celebrate the fact that I am who I am. Everyone faces their own challenges, they just come in different packages.  My body needs an increased dose of prednisone right now to cope with adrenal insufficiency. That is not a failing; it just is.

And today, I will find a way to be OK with that.

Getty image by Makalish.

Originally published: October 29, 2019
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