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7 Silver Linings to the Restricted Life of Chronic Illness

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Chronic illness is a terrible thing that can destroy lives, and relationships and careers. As next year will be my 10th year of living with it, however, I have discovered that there are some compensations to the restricted life to which one becomes accustomed. Some of these are serious, some not so much. A sense of humor is one of the things that keeps you going!

1. We are very faithful partners.

Don’t get me wrong, we can still see the temptation of waltzing into the night with a stranger. But the fantasy doesn’t really bear close analysis. Does Prince Charming stay nice when you spend several hours explaining your medical history? And, once you want to fall asleep together, isn’t he going to be bewildered by the array of cushions you need to be comfortable?

2. We are very faithful friends.

Chronic pain and fibromyalgia have weeded out the shallow and selfish amongst my friends because I’m just too “difficult” to visit and cannot come out at the drop of a hat. I am all the keener to hang on to those who remain, despite the difficulties of distance and travel. I won’t forget who visited me in the hospital when I was there for a fortnight after a big operation and whom I can message on my bad days.

3. We have had to become better parents.

I will always feel guilty that I can’t be more active with my kids, and about the small fortune that I’ve spent trying to get better. Had I not developed spinal problems, however, I would be out of the house a lot more. We would be richer, and my career might be inspiring to them, but I wouldn’t have provided so many cuddles over the last few years. I wouldn’t have had all the conversations that I have with them. I wouldn’t have had time to be on school PTAs and so on.

As kids need you at entirely unpredictable moments, I think I have been home for more of those. Hopefully, they have also appreciated that I have provided an example of learning to live with trying things. Then again, you can never be entirely sure what kids are picking up … perhaps they would have preferred overseas holidays.

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4. We have excellent bullshit detectors.

Chances are that we own at least one crystal that was supposed to cure everything. We’ve been let down by doctors and other medical professionals and gaslighted into thinking that it was our fault that their treatments haven’t been more successful. We are, therefore, good critical thinkers. Health care is complex and anyone proclaiming unqualified optimism or pessimism is to be treated with care. Many of us deal with more than one condition and no vitamin will wipe out everything; neither are the healing powers of the human body ever beyond being able to help us a little.

5. We have some perspective.

So, you didn’t get promoted or your new bathroom has a tiny flaw? We may not take it as seriously as you want us too, but we won’t be mean. We tend to be a kind bunch who can see that you’re upset. But we might be the friends you need in terms of gently helping you see that life will go on once you’ve had a bit of a rant.

6. We are patient.

We understand that recovery takes time and that grief can be ongoing. I hope I’ve been able to see that friends who have their own illnesses, or different difficulties like divorce or redundancy, aren’t “being difficult” if they aren’t sorted out with a couple of phone calls. Sometimes, people need support over the long term and will slip backward. It happens.

7. We do appreciate small things.

I am genuinely thrilled by things growing in my garden and an unexpectedly sunny day. Like many people with chronic illnesses, I have found the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown less difficult as a result, as life hasn’t been that different! I don’t think I can claim any form of higher spiritual enlightenment — it is all still too hard for me some days — but I hope that others can take pleasure my sincere Facebook-expressed delight over a cute photo of a dog or a nice glass of cold wine.

Photo by George Coletrain on Unsplash

Originally published: July 25, 2020
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