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Holding Onto My Enthusiasm Through Chronic Illness

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I am enthusiastic. I get very excited about things. Whenever I commit to a project, I make sure it’s the best that I can make it. I like going to work. I am also in pain every day of my life.

I’ve chosen to talk about my illnesses a lot, to normalize them for my own benefit. My natural inclination is to hide, not to share. I have been making an effort over the last five years to convince myself that it’s OK to share and so I have, and I thought I had done a good job at that except that I’m enthusiastic.

“You’re always so positive!” my office mate tells me.

Well, I am. I am grateful for every day my body allows me to come into the office.

I get sick a fair bit, I have several autoimmune diseases and I’m immune suppressed due to my medications for the aforementioned autoimmune diseases. I take 10 pills a day in an attempt to have a life. I have to evaluate every day: am I actually sick or is this normal for me? Do I stay home or do I try to go to the office?

Staying home, generally, is not good for me. When I’m home, and I’m not feeling good, there is nothing to distract me, and I go to a dark place. Every time I get sick, I wonder, is this it? Is this the day that my former life is over, and this is the new normal? Will I feel like this every single day? Will I not be able to work anymore? Will I not be able to take care of my family? My dog?Myself? It comes in waves, in between fits of sleeping and bathroom trips, feeling so very sorry for myself.

So far I’ve been able to recover from my flares. So far I’ve been able to return enthusiastically to work. But, I have lost some things along the way, things that I loved and things that I thought defined me. For example, I was an avid knitter, now I can no longer hold the needles for very long. I still have all my yarn, I’m not ready to part with it yet, but I’m coming to the slow realization that that part of my life is probably finished and I’m learning to be OK with that.

I am grateful for the things I can still do and the technology that is available to me to help me do things. Like some days my hands don’t work and I have what I refer to as “raptor claws” and I can’t hold a book, but I can still listen to my audiobooks.

I always make it a joke, I always try to laugh. Sometimes I’m laughing to keep from crying and sometimes I’m laughing because I’ve just become resigned to it. So, I’ll keep being enthusiastic on the days I can be, and on the other days, I’ll try to remind myself of all the things there are to be enthusiastic about.

Unsplash photo by Anete Lusina

Originally published: September 11, 2018
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