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My Invisible Insecurities as a Chronically Ill Single Mother

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I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after my 29th birthday. Before my 31st I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Anxiety and depression made themselves present between then. I have been in a health battle since my second diagnosis of arthritis.

Many people question if I am even sick, or when they look at me they’re surprised I am even ill. Or they simply don’t understand autoimmune arthritis can hit anyone at any age or what the hell of living with a chronic illness is like. I am constantly being told I am “too young for that” or I “look great” when I tell people I have arthritis.

I am insecure about having such a misunderstood illness. It’s tiring explaining it over and over, waiting for someone’s responses or questions. I am insecure about my illness because of the way others have treated me over being disabled or how they’ve told me I am not sick – it’s “just arthritis.” I am insecure because I have arthritis. I can feel the weakness it creates not only in my joints but also in my mind. I am insecure because my illness is invisible to so many people’s compassion and empathy.

My greatest insecurity is how I feel I cannot mother like I used to or like other moms. When I say “other,” I mean the healthy ones. I am more tired, I have a lot of pain, I don’t have much money and sometimes there are groceries, but sometimes there isn’t much to eat. Sometimes my house is a mess because I am tired and my body feels broken. Sometimes my son has worn the same clothing for a few days. I am so thankful for the friends he’s made because for a moment I get a break in the day to rest.

mother holding her toddler in her lap

I am insecure about how arthritis makes me overwhelmed as a single parent with a lot on her plate. I am insecure about how poor disability has made me. I am embarrassed when I have to call my bill company to explain something has come up, and I just can’t keep up.

I started to lose weight in September 2016 and have since lost quite a bit. I did so because I need to fight against my own body not just for myself, but also for my toddler son. As a single parent on disability, it has created a mass amount of insecurities in myself. Losing the weight and exercising helped me get over the insecurity that I wasn’t fighting as hard as I could. I made myself shine. Living in the hell of chronic illness and immense stress beat me down to my breaking point and almost to a point of self-destruction. I am constantly battling against what life has to throw at me and my own emotions, but I always know my love for my son triumphs all, and I know how much of a fighter I truly am.

With the self-improvement I did for myself and my body, I see no reason why I can’t focus on mothering while chronically ill next. The life of a spoonie can make me so insecure that I have to carefully plan out my fatigue management. I was insecure about having to put myself before my son for a brief period, but with how sick I was, it was better for the both of us. But that guilt just doesn’t quite go away so easy.

Having an invisible illness has been both a blessing and a curse for me, where obviously being ill is the curse. But sometimes looking like I do while sick creates great anxiety and makes daily life difficult when going out into public. I’m afraid of someone bumping into me because my body is weak and hurting, of living in a big city where no one seems to know how to walk properly either. I’m afraid of using the disabled seats when I don’t have my toddler’s hand to hold, showing others I actually belong here, and am not just some young person being lazy.

black and white photo of mother and son looking through wire fence

The looks when I take a busy elevator. The insecurities of being a heavily tattooed individual who needs painkillers, and the judgmental looks people give me. I know in reality I shouldn’t care – it’s the person’s own ignorance – but I’ve never much liked ignorant people, so I am as open as possible about my illnesses. Doing so has helped me release much of my insecure feelings about being ill. Another constant battle I fight daily in my own mind.

I am insecure about how torn apart arthritis made me feel. I know better than my insecurities, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still have them no matter how strong I am. I am insecure about having insecurities.

– Chronic Eileen

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Originally published: July 12, 2017
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