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When I Find Myself Hoping the 'Baseline' of My Illness Comes Back

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I’ve found that many people with chronic illness experience an important turning point. To some it may seem like denial, but it is really a sign of strength.

At the beginning of this hellish journey we experience, for many of us, symptoms reach a point we consider unbearable. Excruciating, even. As the days (or weeks or months or years) go by, those symptoms become a baseline. The baseline is what we carry with us every day, the symptoms and feelings we strive to turn to background noise. Elevator music, if you will. Eventually, we may reach a point where the baseline is manageable, and we accept it for what it is.

As the journey continues, we may experience flare-ups — those times when the elevator music feels like standing next to the stage at a heavy metal concert. Flare-ups bring a whole new definition to excruciating, and I’m only using that word because I don’t believe there is a word in the English language that can correctly represent the agony I feel. When I experience these moments, I find myself praying for my baseline to come back.

I’ve been told that hoping for my baseline is letting my illness win. That wishing for it to reappear in any form makes me weak. I, however, think of it as the opposite. It is a sign of strength that I have been able to adapt and create a life for myself where my baseline is only background noise. I think it is incredibly powerful that people with chronic illness find ways to celebrate their lives despite the pains they feel every day. And I feel it is extremely important for that mindset to be encouraged.

Just as I think people should never be defined by their illnesses, I think we should not define our own lives by our illnesses. I see my baseline as a gift, as something that has allowed me to test my boundaries, to grow as a person and explore my identity. I plan on living my life to the fullest, and if my baseline is part of it, it’ll just be elevator music.

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Thinkstock photo by bellerebelle_n

Originally published: April 3, 2017
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