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The Fear of Missing Out When You're Chronically Ill

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Generation X or Generation Y or whatever generation(s) we attribute millennials to could better be identified as the FOMO generation. FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.” The internet defines FOMO as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Our generation fears not saying yes to something and it negatively affecting our future. So we may say yes to hanging out with friends when we should be studying, we say yes to an extra class even though we’re already taking 18 honors units, we say yes to jobs we don’t want in order to boost our resume, etc.

We fear so much that we say yes to everything, hoping we can keep up with those around us and that our resumes are competitive enough to get us a job. We fear not being involved in everything and not knowing everyone.

However, there is no one who feels FOMO quite as much as the person who is chronically ill. Once you are diagnosed with an illness, especially chronic, you are tethered to it. Once you stomach the word that is now synonymous with you, the pills you take on a daily schedule, the looks you get when people find out — once you stomach more than you should have to handle, you start to stomach things you miss out on.

You stomach the lunches you miss with friends because of doctor’s appointments. You stomach the parties you couldn’t go to because you were too sick to get out of bed. You stomach the internship you can’t take because you just can’t take that much on. You stomach the memories lost because you weren’t there.

You begin to see every doctor’s appointment, day sick or night in as you missing out on your life, the life you want, the lives your non-sick peers are blessed to get. You watch as they pass milestones, make successes and achieve greatness. You fear you are missing out and you fear your illness is creating the ultimate loss.

You watch memories like prom and class field trips pass you by as nothing more than photos on social media while you sit in bed, nauseous and exhausted. Texts and tweets of memories you missed out on fill your social media inbox as doctors and nurses give you IVs and medications.

For a millennial with a chronic illness, FOMO fills your everyday life. It is the constant balance between saying yes to opportunities, like a class, and saying yes to yourself, like getting an extra hour of sleep as opposed to going out for milkshakes with friends. FOMO isn’t going anywhere, not for millennial, not for the chronically ill, not for me.

You begin to become grateful for the memories you do get to make, the experiences you do get to live, the photos you are a part of, the people you are surrounded with — knowing you may not be at every event or in every photo but you are in the ones that matter, the ones you need to be, and they shape you.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: November 21, 2016
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