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How Chronic Pain Made Me Feel Unworthy of Love

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After each of my multiple diagnoses with chronic illness, I ran through a gamut of emotions. Sometimes there’s screaming, sometimes tears, and more often than not, there is that ugly thing called denial. One day I’ll binge on Ben & Jerry’s and fill up my Netflix queue with sad movies, and the next I’m going for a hike and laughing with friends. Long story short, when you’re given shitty information about your health, you honestly just aren’t sure how to deal. For me, there are days when the sad just gets old and I try to convince myself it isn’t that bad; that others have it so much worse and at least I’m still me. Even though there’s an imaginary entity that will now wreak havoc on my life, I am in control and it won’t beat me. That’s me on a good day. Not all days are good days.

Although I can be guilty of complaining and feeling sorry for myself, I do often realize I am lucky enough to have what some people don’t while dealing with chronic illness, which is an unbelievable support system. My friends, family, and co-workers are all as understanding, accommodating, sympathetic, and kind as they can be. But when plans fall through for the umpteenth time because I’m too sick to put on a happy face or in too much pain to leave my couch, understanding and sympathy can dissipate. It’s a very lonely feeling when you truly recognize that your friends and family just simply don’t get it, and you can’t totally expect them to.

About a year before I was diagnosed with my second chronic illness I met my number one cheerleader and support system, who is now my fiancee. The beginning of our courtship was light, carefree, full of adventure, and always positive. Most of the time, it it still is. But the difference now is that we have these invisible detractors; these other things that try to get in the way of that positivity that didn’t exist before. We never had to worry about broken plans, postponed adventures, sick days and countless sorry’s and attempted explanations. We didn’t have to bother with researching restaurant menus and keeping a pharmacy’s worth of pills on us at all times to maintain normalcy and have a fun night out with friends. The course of our relationship has moved forward and we are about to say “I do” in front of hundreds of our loved ones, but it hasn’t been without a fight.

Chronic illness and invisible pain has greatly affected my self-confidence. It has (unnecessarily) made me wonder if I am worthy of love, of friendship, of life’s successes. It’s confusing and unfair and even on my better days I’m worrying about my next flare and how I’ll cope (again) with everything that comes along with it. My biggest insecurity for a long time was how this “new me” would fit into a romantic relationship.

When you’re constantly trying to heal yourself it’s easy to forget that the person you’re spending your days with is also being affected. I would have times where I’d be convinced my fiancee would leave me and find someone more fun, but lucky for me, it didn’t take long to realize he wasn’t going anywhere. When you have a significant other who will hold your hair back while you vomit, draw a bath for you when the cramps are debilitating, do pharmacy runs, plug in heating pads, feed you medicine and just hug you while you cry, that’s when you realize how lucky you actually are. That you are bigger than what ails you, and that the right partner can get you through anything. I’m truly blessed with this wonderful person who tries with all his might to understand, but also who apologizes when he just isn’t able to.

We can’t predict the future and what impact the bad days will have on us, but that makes us appreciate the good days even more. Some couples go through normal stresses on a relationship like long work hours, bills, money and outside influences. We deal with all that like any regular couple does, but on top of that there is daily pain, medical finances, missed work and doctors appointments. Disappointing family and friends and having to split our time will always exist. We try remind ourselves and each other every day that if we can get through all that we have, the rest of our lives will be a breeze.

I’ve recently been given my third, and hopefully final, chronic illness diagnosis, but the difference is that I don’t let the tears come anymore. I have actually learned to laugh about it. I tell myself that negativity and bad thoughts are a breeding ground for physical ailments and only manifest bad things. Being lucky in love isn’t a guarantee that insecurity and issues won’t arise and you won’t be tested, but it’s how you choose to pass all those tests that matters. Once you realize your physical limitations don’t define who you are, and that you have so much to give to someone else regardless of those hurdles, you will find that the right type of love comes into your life at exactly the right time. When you have a solid partner to cry through the bad days with and laugh through the good ones with, that next adventure is right around the corner.

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Originally published: June 28, 2017
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