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When I 'Play Favorites' With My Disabilities

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It’s recently occurred to me that I play favorites with my chronic health conditions. What I mean is, I most often identify as someone with fibromyalgia and downplay my other conditions. I decided I need to explore why I picked this “leader” among my collection that also includes osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome.

The most logical explanation is that my fibro is the one that most shapes my life and my restrictions. I suspect some deeper reasons, though. Fibromyalgia is a bit of a ghost. It’s unseen, misunderstood, difficult to treat, difficult to prove. I think I prioritize my acknowledgment and discussion of fibro so that I can 1) keep doing the work to accept this crappy diagnosis and know that it’s real and 2) insist to the world that this condition is real, and for me it’s pretty terrible.

And maybe, emotionally, I only want to cope with having one lifelong health condition. Looking at the whole picture is devastating. In fact, I know I avoid thinking about the arthritis too much because it is progressive, and it is severe, and I’m terrified of the future. Just my inability to do something that most people do without a second thought, a simple thing that is such a huge part of life, which is sitting in a chair for any duration without pain, is immensely depressing.

Is it healthy to play favorites like this? Probably not. I’m glad I recognize that I’m doing this, so I’ll stop. I do need to do the brave work of seeing the whole picture and properly grieve for the losses and manage my fears for the future. More importantly, acknowledging all my conditions commands me to take better care of myself, eat better foods that soothe my body instead of aggravating it, work on my flexibility and core strength, and communicate to people about my limitations so I don’t cause more pain by trying to pass as able-bodied.

Do you identify with just one of your multiple conditions, and what are you ignoring because you do?

Getty image by Dinachi.

Originally published: July 22, 2021
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