Sometimes I feel like my life with a chronic illness is a lot like a banana. I’m not talking about the superfood, power-inducing, on-the-run snack, I’m talking about a banana that’s been bruised, blackened and abandoned in the fruit bowl.
Over the years, we slowly begin to build up layers of identity around us. Career, social status, health, beauty, fitness, etc. What this presents, if you will allow me, is the image of a perfectly formed banana. However, when chronic illness hits (in my case, chronic fatigue syndrome), you and your identity might become damaged, bruised and blackened.
The first to go is your healthy self. This is when that layer of protection around you is peeled back, a layer I’d always taken for granted. You’re no longer a healthy individual. You’re in pain, and you might feel riddled with guilt and doubted by those around you, even those in the medical profession. As yet another doctor tells you they can’t find anything wrong and maybe it’s psychological, bruises begin to appear on your now unprotected body.
Then fitness, body image and self-esteem get peeled back. Maybe you’ve gained or lost weight. You’ve gone from training for marathons to being out of breath just walking from your bed to the bathroom. You could look physically sick. Or if you have an invisible illness, you look fine on the outside, but no one truly knows how awful you feel on the inside and how much makeup was required to cover the bags under your eyes. You feel beaten and defeated. Bruise.
Any social life you once had might get stripped away as you enter the land of hibernation and Netflix. Your social standing you once wrapped tightly around you is gone, along with a lot of the fun in your life. Another bruise.
Perhaps the layer of your identity tied to your career disappears. It might be hard to continue being a successful, powerful, high-achieving colleague. You’re feeling less and less of who you were. Bruise.
Maybe you can no longer shop for yourself, clean your house, cook your own dinner or live independently. You feel like all of who you once were is gone. You’re now dependent on others. Who you were and what you thought defined you have been stripped away. Bruise, bruise, bruise.
As the world moves on around you and your friends earn promotions, get married, have babies or travel the world, maybe you begin to feel even more like that last bruised banana sitting in the fruit bowl.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Despite chronic illness stripping away everything you once held dearly, you slowly begin to realize your identity hasn’t actually disappeared. Yes, it has changed, and it has shifted from what society perceives your identity should be, but it’s still there. You are you! You’re an individual who is fearfully and wonderfully made. You’re an awesome superfood with purpose and hope.
Even if you feel like a bruised banana, there’s so much beauty in who you are and so much hope. When you’re in that place, you might not be able to see it, but anyone around you who takes a moment to consider it can see it shining through. You’re an encouragement to others and an inspiration. You’re abundantly greater and stronger than how you may feel your chronic illness has changed you. So keep on fighting; you’re truly worth it.
And, really, when you think about it, it’s the bruised and blackened bananas that without a doubt make the best banana bread!
Follow this journey on Make It, Bake It, Fake It.
The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.