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50 Everyday Tasks, and What They Feel Like for a Person With Chronic Illness

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It seems to be rather hard sometimes for some people to understand, or remember, that literally every action you take as someone with a chronic condition can be harder than it would be for the average person. Just about all chronic illnesses can cause pain, nausea, fatigue and/or many other symptoms. My last piece explained how our pain can feel. This one is to explain how everyday things that many take for granted can be much bigger ordeals for us.

I can remember how it felt to feel, what I thought was normal. I do often wonder if it was just me feeling better than I do now, but not necessarily what is considered normal for a person of average health for their age and size. I really don’t know. Doctors chalked any complaints up to my weight, so no tests were performed for anything aside from thyroid problems. I do know that it wasn’t always this bad, so I feel like I have an idea of how it feels to experience some things as a “healthier” person.

This is a list of some of those normal, everyday activities or experiences with a description after each. The descriptions are of how those ordinary things feel to me as someone with multiple chronic illnesses. Most may seem dramatic to you if you don’t have chronic illness, but I promise they really aren’t exaggerated much at all. Some aren’t even enough to really paint the picture, but I tried. I’ve attempted to compare based on the time it would take to recover from each, the preparation required to do whatever it is, the physical pain and nausea involved, the mental/emotional pain involved, and for some, the actual amount of time it would take me to accomplish said activity. It’s the best I could come up with to give someone who doesn’t experience it an accurate picture of the struggles we deal with on a daily basis as chronic illness warriors.

There are 50 different things listed in an attempt to relate to anyone who reads this, so if there isn’t anything you relate to at first, keep reading, and maybe you’ll find something.

  1. Me taking a shower. Simple, right? Nope. It can feel like you ran a mile or two, then jumped in the shower at the end of a very long day.
  2. Getting dressed. Another supposedly easy thing that can feel like you’ve spent hours trying on outfit after outfit while walking around the mall.
  3. Brushing my hair and pulling it back into a ponytail. Sometimes can feel like you’ve just done 50 pull-ups and now your arms are rubber.
  4. Doing my makeup and other “female maintenance.” This can feel like you’ve actually just cleaned your entire house.
  5. Doing a basic polish on my nails. Can feel like you’ve given someone else a manicure, pedicure and massage, but without feeling like you’ve helped someone.
  6. Kneeling down. Can feel like getting both kneecaps shattered by a baseball bat.
  7. Actual exercise. Can feel like you’ve been hit by a semi-truck (and can sometimes take almost as long to recover).
  8. Doing just one push-up. Can feel like you’re trying to bench press eight times more weight than usual.
  9. Running or jogging. Can feel like you’re breaking your tibia bones with the impact of each step.
  10. Taking a leisurely stroll around the block. Can feel like speed walking about 10 blocks.
  11. Lifting my arms or moving my legs. Can feel like you’re walking around with 75-lb. weights on your limbs.
  12. Walking up an average in-home flight of stairs. Can feel like walking up 20 commercial building flights of stairs.
  13. Doing a sink full of dishes. Can feel like you’ve just completed an eight-hour shift as a dishwasher.
  14. Vacuuming. Can feel like you’ve done 100 push-ups.
  15. Sweeping with a broom. Can feel like you’ve been rowing a boat all day in slightly rough waters.
  16. Changing the toilet paper roll. Can feel like disassembling a small appliance.
  17. Doing laundry with a machine. Can feel like you’ve had to do it with an old school washboard and elbow grease.
  18. Spring cleaning. Can feel like you literally tore the house down, rebuilt it, then cleaned and decorated.
  19. Doing yard work for an hour or two max. Can feel like you’ve been digging trenches for eight hours.
  20. Moving houses. Can feel like you personally built the house, then moved four houses’ worth of stuff into it.
  21. Standing for eight hours for a job. Can feel like you jumped off a roof over and over, landing on the balls of your feet, jarring your back.
  22. Trying to fit in just one more thing from my to-do list before my body shuts me down and I collapse. Can feel like trying to complete the final obstacle in the longest American Ninja Warrior course after doing all the qualifying runs in the same day. With some type of injury.
  23. Going to the store for just a couple of things. Can feel like you’ve just worked out for an hour.
  24. Simply riding in a vehicle. Can feel like being in a demolition derby race that takes place on a boat during a storm.
  25. Attending a family function (i.e. Thanksgiving or Christmas). Can feel like running an entire marathon.
  26. Attending a sports event as a spectator. Can feel like you actually played the game yourself.
  27. Cleaning out my car. Can feel like you deep spring cleaned a mansion.
  28. Bathing my dog. Can feel like you’ve just had the fight of your life that went on for 24 hours or more, non-stop (yeah, that’s how weak I feel after).
  29. Cooking a real, full meal alone for my family of six. Can feel like catering an event for 50 people, complete with four courses.
  30. Picking up a glass of soda. Can feel like picking up a 5-lb. weight.
  31. Mustering up enough energy to be excited about a loved one’s accomplishments on a bad fibro day. Can feel like trying to dig yourself out of quicksand.
  32. Trying to stay awake when my body wants to shut down two hours into my day. Can feel like trying to stay awake after you’ve been up for three days straight.
  33. Trying to sleep when my body doesn’t want to cooperate. Can feel like trying to sleep with an invisible force randomly burning, punching, stabbing and sticking you with needles all night while also turning the thermostat back and forth between extremes as soon as you get comfortable.
  34. Hypersensitivity. Can feel like someone has taken coarse sandpaper over every inch of your skin until it’s raw and bleeding while your other senses are all enhanced so much that smells cause instant nausea, sounds cause it to feel like a knife has sliced through your head and ears, and opening your eyes feels like you’ve been in a cave for years with no sunlight.
  35. Waking up every morning. Always feels like the worst hangover you’ve ever had ×10. Headache, nausea, pain, sensitivity to everything, desire to not exist. If you’ve never had a hangover, maybe try to imagine being knocked out, trampled and put on a merry-go-round.
  36. Having the flu. Can feel like having the plague (think devastation to body and recovery time).
  37. Getting a common cold. Can feel like you have pneumonia and the normal flu feeling.
  38. Getting a bruise. Can feel like being shot by an arrow.
  39. Attempting to focus on any important task during brain fog. Can feel like looking through a thick fog and hearing through noise cancelling headphones. You can barely hear or see, and it’s impossible to look at your entire surroundings clearly.
  40. The aftermath of a night of going out to a club or concert, dancing and having fun (no alcohol). Can feel like you went on a week-long bender during Spring Break and you’ve just woken up on the first sober day after.
  41. Physically writing this piece. Can feel like someone is smashing your hands with a hammer.
  42. Maintaining a civil attitude when in pain and dealing with ignorance in the world. Can feel like trying to keep your cool when someone wrongs your child or a loved one right in front of you, but law enforcement is also present.
  43. Going out on a date. Can feel like backpacking across the country without adequate supplies.
  44. Sitting on bleachers or in pews. Can feel like being tied to a back board for two days, unable to move.
  45. Sitting around trying to recover from living life. Can feel like working eight hours at a mentally exhausting job similar to white collar work. Pain is mentally exhausting. Both the exhaustion and stress can manifest physically.
  46. Going out for even 30 minutes when the temperature is above 80 degrees. Can feel like you’ve just spent eight hours doing hard labor in 100 degree weather.
  47. Going out for any amount of time when the temperature is below 50 degrees. Can feel like sitting in an ice bath without the numbing effect, or laying in the snow for an hour in just a T-shirt and pants.
  48. Searching for socks in a chaotic clothes basket. Can feel like you’ve been bent over weeding a flower bed for a couple of hours.
  49. Sitting still. Can feel like your entire body will surely explode, then turns into one big ache. Subtle movements help keep you in motion, slightly relieving some pain.
  50. Laying in the same position for more than 30 minutes. Can make you feel like you’re laying on a bed of nails.

I hope at least one of these things give you an idea of how much harder it is to do normal things as a person battling chronic illness. This is on top of the pain and everything else, so when we are doing something that seems insignificant to you, remember it may be taking literally every ounce of strength we have.

Getty Image by Naked King

Originally published: October 2, 2018
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