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5 Everyday Things That Are Different When You Have a Chronic Illness

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When you have a chronic illness like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia or any of the others that impact millions of people each year, doing everyday, run-of-the-mill things that should be commonplace or easy become, well, not so easy.

Here are five everyday things that are different when you have a chronic illness:

1. Sleep

Chronic illnesses often make it difficult to stick to a normal sleeping schedule. With my ME/CFS, I don’t get refreshed sleep like most people do. I could sleep for 12 hours and still feel too exhausted to survive a normal day. On the flip side, there are times when I don’t sleep at all or sleep for days at a time. 

2. Work

When you have a chronic illness, your ability to hold a regular, 40-hour-a-week job definitely changes. Because of irregular sleeping patters, inconsistent energy levels and bouts of muscle pain, nausea, fevers and more, holding down a job that seems normal to anyone else can be an immense challenge. People with chronic illnesses can often be on disability programs and deemed unable to work, or they find options that allow for flexible scheduling or working from home.

3. Exercise

For some, exercise is a regular part of their everyday life. But for those with a chronic illness, exercise is either a necessary part of treatment or a necessary to avoid. While exercise can be extremely therapeutic for the body, some people with chronic illnesses experience heightened pain and fatigue following any kind of exercise, leaving them bedridden for days, sometimes weeks, afterward. A slow hike with my boyfriend landed me in bed with incredible pain and fatigue for days and served as a stark reminder of how my body has changed. 

4. Friendships

Most people look forward to, and enjoy, spending time with their friends. Those with chronic illnesses, however, are often unable to produce the energy it takes to have a night out, invite people over or attend parties. Subsequently, friendships are often tested. Chronic illness turns people who were once lively and outgoing into people who need to cancel plans and stay home. Since being diagnosed, I’ve become the “unreliable friend,” often letting people down last minute because I’m in too much pain to leave my bed. 

5. Eating

When you’re living with a chronic illness, something as simple as eating becomes a big “to-do.” Things like being unable to prepare your own food or being unable to eat in general are commonplace. We can also have severe restrictions and may have to avoid foods that are especially inflammatory, such as wheat and dairy. Delivery has become a go-to option for me when I can’t grocery shop or go out. 

Though these five examples are a depiction of specific limitations living with a chronic illness, there are so many other things that are different in a positive way. Developing strong relationships with people who support you no matter what is one of them. What’s important to remember is that while different, life with chronic illness is manageable, and it’s still possible to do extraordinary things. 

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: December 27, 2016
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