Truths Are Blurted Out Which Health Conceals
I think there are few writers who have tackled chronic illness with the finesse equal to Virginia Woolf’s “On Being Ill” essay, and our community is so much better for it 🤍
Somehow she manages to say so much in the few lines within this quote. Illness is indeed a part of every person’s human experience. Yet sadly very few able bodied souls seem capable of remembering their worst moments of having to soldier on whilst sick, and allowing this to inform their sense of empathy when it comes to those of us who have been soldiering on for years, if not decades.
Our battle with chronic illness, fatigue, and pain, acutely enhances our perceptions. You cannot be unchanged by long term illness. We alter the courses of our lives, we alter how we face the day, and inevitably many of us—willingly or not—alter our relationships. Many things simply become unsustainable, and these alterations irrecoverably change us.
And, whether it is topics of conversation that previously you would have considered taboo, or our falling standards of vanity, self consciousness too is inevitably eroded and reduced. Such that support group chats about strange bowel movements become not only common, but at times become quite detailed. And nobody minds, because we’re all stuck in the same metaphorical boat of having to self advocate, and self research.
Loss of vanity creeps in slowly. One of the first things I remember doing was growing my hair out so I could braid it and not have to style it anymore. Those of us with #MultipleChemicalSensitivity find that hair dyes and nail polishes become too irritating. I switched to natural versions, but as my health worsened, eventually I lost the will to engage in these little vanities altogether.
At some point your hygiene standards become less of a priority, and skipping baths or showers seems a prudent way of saving spoons. Wet wipes become good substitutes and in winter, you’re just about prepared to be sewn into your clothing for the season as they used to do in the Middle Ages. And with the worst of health things like makeup, regular haircuts, high heels, jewellery and such, become but a distant memory.
Reduced capacity to thrive brings out all sorts of confessions. Which to their credit, our partners most often find themselves unofficially ordained, and on the other side of the curtain. Regrets, memories, anger, and hurt. When you have nothing but time, and lack the energy to participate in life, it all comes tumbling out in the wash.
Most recently I found myself confessing to my husband that occasionally I can’t help but wonder if hubris is keeping me alive, and whether he might be better off without me. Not to say that I have any intention to laden my pockets, and wade into the River Virginia. My mind however does spend an awful amount of time dwelling next to it’s riverbanks. My mind’s eye fixed on the current, trying to decode what it all means, and where exactly I stand in the great equation called life.
Fully cognisant that there are millions of years behind our evolution, many more millennia yet to come, and in a cosmos made up of infinite planets and possibilities. Such that one day none of it will matter at all. All evidence of my existence will eventually disappear. And it is this knowledge that forces me back to the one truth that I have come to know; all that really matters is the here, and the now.
As Virginia Woolf so aptly concludes, “truths are blurted out which health conceals”.