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Why Chronic Illnesses Aren't 'Romantic' Like the TV Shows

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There’s nothing romantic about chronic illness. Rarely does it feel like some heroic battle where you will defeat your disease against all odds. It does, however, feel like a painstaking, tedious, never-ending struggle to do everyday things. It does not feel like everyone has your back, cheering you on from the sidelines. In fact, it can put strains on your closest relationships and on the best days it can make you feel inadequate, and on the worst days, like a huge burden.

Having a chronic illness is not like the TV shows. It’s not some brave news story. Doctors don’t stop at your every beck and call. Many people fail to show you empathy – it’s far from a “poor me” contest. It’s waking up in pain and going to bed in pain, hoping you’ll fall asleep before you crack from keeping it together most of the day. It’s daily muscle and joint pain, countless headaches, bouts of dizziness, constant infections, digestive upsets, difficulty focusing on anything, and having to limit every day to just a few hours of normal activity levels to accommodate the relentless fatigue.


Chronic illness is rarely understood. It’s not seen as noble to cancel plans much of the time because of your illness or to rely on other people to drive you to your appointments. It does not appear amicable when you don’t have anything interesting to share because you haven’t left the house much lately or when your concentration and memory fail you mid sentence. Chronic illness is not only painful… it’s painfully boring, and lonely. But perhaps the most difficult part about chronic illness, for me, is seeing your health being continually tested and not feeling like a warrior inside. Instead, feeling deflated, helpless and often seeing the worst of you come to the surface. There’s no romance in self-pity, frustration and despair.

I see chronic illness not as a romantic battle but as an enduring war. There’s much one does not see and intricacies one could not possibly understand looking on from the outside. There are many unheard stories of pain and desperation, and you do not know if and when the war will cease. You have no choice but to strive on, taking each day as it comes.

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Originally published: June 12, 2017
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