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5 Difficult Choices People With Chronic Illnesses Face

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Being sick, especially chronically sick, is hard work. One reason for this is that we must constantly assess every aspect of our lives and how every move we make will change everything we do. This requires us to make tough choice after tough choice.

Here are five choices we often face.

1. Do we push our bodies to the limit or do we play it safe?

Sometimes the desire to be “normal” is so strong that we may talk ourselves into pushing our bodies into doing what they can’t, and shouldn’t do. An example of this for me is going out to play in the hot sun with my nephews after an even hotter, hard day at work. When I get home from my hot work environment, no more heat is tolerable to my body. I should play games with the boys inside, but often I don’t. So because of this I will be in a defiant mood with myself and just tell myself that I’m tired of feeling bad, so I’m just going to pretend that I don’t. What I get for this attitude is at least a week of increased pain and killer headaches. And, if I’m unlucky enough,  a hospital trip.

But I can’t always play it safe either. One, because my body will get used to that. It’ll expect the strict regime and I won’t have the ability to be flexible at all. And two, “normal” people are flexible, right? Right?!

2. Do we keep our health problems private or do we openly share them?

If we talk about them, some people may become judgmental towards us. And those who don’t turn away still change how they act around us sometimes. We want to be treated the same as everyone else, but if we share, or share too much, we risk losing that. But if we keep quiet about our health issues, we risk others misunderstanding what we can and can’t do.

If I keep quiet I pass up the chance of getting much-needed support. Also, I lose the chance to educate others. How do people learn anything, ever? By people talking about it.

3. Do we ignore a new symptom or tell the doctor?

If I tell the doctor about a new symptom, what will he think? Will he think I’m a hypochondriac, or oversensitive? Or maybe I am just tired of telling doctors everything. There’s always something. But it’s also possible that the new symptom is serious. We have to listen carefully to our bodies and decide.

4. Should we try unconventional or alternative therapies?

There’s really no wrong answer here. But they can be expensive and an unnecessary use of energy if we aren’t careful. But it’s also possible that they could be helpful.

5. Should we fight for our health or accept our fate?

Constant fighting is hard mentally and physically. But just passively accepting our lives are always going to be this way doesn’t feel good either. I personally like a middle-of-the-road attitude with this. I accept that my health is what it is and fight to get my health back to where it was pre-multiple sclerosis at the same time. 

These two actions aren’t contradictory. I believe you can enjoy life as a sick person. It is hard work to continually assess, evaluate and choose a course of action while already in so much pain. My wish for you all is to be as kind to yourself as you can while you struggle with these choices.

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Originally published: June 2, 2016
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