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On the Days Chronic Illness Causes You to Despair

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If you have chronic illness, it affects you every hour of every day. And sometimes I just despair!

This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it can be overwhelming. This despair gives me a gigantic case of “poor me” and I want to curl up in bed with my quilt over my head and shut the world out.

I am usually quite optimistic and fairly resilient. I have had many huge stressors in my 68 years and I have survived these. Sometimes my survival was fairly tenuous with my long struggles with depression, but I can recognize the signs of when I need professional support. It is human to have these stresses and ups and downs. And despair is a normal feeling too.


But this despair due to my overall health is rather different.

What usually tips me into despair? Well, with the most recent occurrence, I was actually very tired and I was in severe pain from osteoarthritis. The pain was preventing me from sleeping so I was worn out. I couldn’t walk without hurting badly. I just felt overwhelmed when I was criticized for doing the washing! That’s when I lost it. I was told not to try to do things: “I don’t understand why you keep pushing yourself to do things! You just make yourself worse!” Well then despair waltzed in and took over.

This situation illustrates the factors that are risks for me: being over tired, having relentless severe pain, feeling criticized and, finally, being unable to accomplish simple tasks.

I actually do need to be able to do things! The pain and exhaustion were the major culprits. The consequence was a short stint of tears while I curled up under the blanket. This soon cleared the despair. I think I put expectations on myself, and when I come up short I sink. I believe many of us with chronic illness push ourselves past the OK point and this leads to a crash of some kind. The crash can come out as an emotion such as anger, fear or despair and it nearly always brings overwhelming exhaustion.

Tears are good for me. I know they release my stress and tension. Tears contain endorphins and other hormones so this feeling of release after a good cry does have a physiological base.

Hope is the flip side of despair. So when despair visits I need to be kind to myself, do things that don’t aggravate my body and that I enjoy and spend time with people who are supportive and who can acknowledge my struggles. There is no point in my hoping this will all go away because that just isn’t possible. My health issues are here to stay. My hopes are all about acceptance of my ill health and enjoying each day.

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Thinkstock photo via Anna1000Arts.

Originally published: June 25, 2017
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