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What It's Like to Constantly Battle Yourself Against a Chronic Illness

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As much as I fight so hard to be strong, sometimes I let my illnesses and emotions get the best of me. More often than I like to admit, I struggle with my illnesses defining me and my life. My life is a rollercoaster with good days and bad days, but it seems to be more bad than good lately. It’s really been eating away at me. My life has been a constant mess of surgeries, unexplained symptoms, halfhearted support from my doctors, and a feeling of hopelessness. It can sometimes be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There is only so long someone can fight against themselves. To me, that is what it is like to live with a chronic illness. It is a constant battle against yourself to be “normal, to be productive, to be a good parent, partner, etc, and to be strong and act like it doesn’t bother you. It can be so tiring wearing that mask day in and day out, and soon it begins to crumble.

Along with gastroparesis and endometriosis, I also suffer from depression and anxiety. Stress is an everyday part of my life, and unfortunately, stress can play a big factor in setting up for a flare. It is so incredibly hard when you have multiple illnesses that all play off each other, all have extremely different “preferred diets,” and that have overlapping symptoms. It’s almost impossible to make them all “happy,” as I like to say.

Every day is a surprise  — will I have a mild flare up today? Or will today be a “let’s not get out of bed at all and binge watch Netflix while you cry into your heating pad” kind of day? Maybe I’ll be lucky and have no pain at all! That’s a joke, honestly. Sometimes I know before I even open my eyes for the first time. Others I won’t know until my feet touch the floor and I start moving through my morning.

Nausea and vomiting on the daily. Add in some cramping, burning, aching…pretty much anyway you’re able to describe pain, I will more than likely experience it in a day’s time. All while juggling doctor appointments, school pick up/drop off, grocery shopping…or attempting to, anyway.

I say “attempt” because, whether I like to admit it or not, I have my really bad days where I am almost completely useless. Days where the pain is at an all-time-high, or my stomach is backed up beyond capacity and all I can do is throw up all day long; where I can only lay in the fetal position with two heating blankets and can’t even think about moving without agonizing pain.

It breaks my heart when I can’t even get out of bed to help my kids get ready for school, or when I have to ask our oldest to pack her brother’s lunch because the sight and smell of any kind of food is too much, or when I completely lose my marbles over something miniscule and silly.

Chronic pain can do a lot of things to your body not just physically, but mentally as well. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and constantly on your mind. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am anymore.

My pain and my illnesses have taken so many things away from me. There are days, more than I like to admit, that I let them win. I let the pain take over and control not only my body, but my heart as well. I can be short-tempered and emotional, too exhausted to care about anything. I give up and cry “why me,” wondering what I ever did to deserve this, pushing myself deeper into the darkness.

However, there are even more days where I push through the pain, push through the anxiety, push through the fatigue. And sometimes, it is merely just to make it through the day, to function at my bare minimum.

My illness has taken so many things away from me, but I am not going down without a fight. But today was a rough day, and I’m going to take a break and rest. And that’s OK, to take a break, to let your body do what it needs to do. Never feel guilty for caring for yourself first.


Photo credit: tsingha25/Getty Images

Originally published: March 29, 2020
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