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To the Person With Chronic Illness Who Doesn't Think It Gets Better

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Today, I went back to school for the first time in five weeks to take an exam. It felt so weird to walk through the doors I used to cry walking out of and see the familiar faces again. I nearly forgot that life was still going on for every one else even though I felt like mine was ending. I sat in the quiet room, with my legs propped in a chair, and it hit me. I can’t describe it but if you have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), you know what I mean.

My heart started pounding then shortness of breath, dizziness, shaking, and numbness followed. I felt like I was about to pass out.

I realized in that moment a truth I have been trying to ignore: POTS is scary.

It’s scary to be all alone with your body with no one to turn to. Doctor’s offices, test after test, hospitals, palpitations… the list goes on and on. Sometimes you don’t want to bear the weight anymore.

If you dare tell someone how you feel, they tell you the same things which never comfort you. Because even the most compassionate of people can’t understand the battle you are in. They can hold you while you cry and try to help you, but ultimately, you have to face it alone. Anxiety starts to creep up on you because of all the stress being sick causes.

When you’re at your darkest point, even the truth seems like the biggest lie. You don’t want to believe anymore. You don’t want to “keep fighting” or “hang in there” one more second. You don’t want to wrestle with nearly passing out or all your pain. You just want to get back to the happy days of your life — the healthy days of your life. And you can’t get there and you get so frustrated.

I want to tell you something now that you have heard 1,000 times. I want to shout it to you, raise a banner, whatever I can so you will know: It gets better!

I am not saying that as a person who can’t comprehend your pain. I can. I have been there. I have had days where I have felt so bad. I have spent days laying on the floor begging God to help me feel better. I have sat in cold hospital rooms and cried. I’ve embarrassed myself because I get so dizzy I don’t know what’s going on. I have been told I am overreacting in the moment when I needed someone to comfort me the most. I have watched people functioning in their normal life and envied them. I’ve had to cancel so many plans and upset my friends. I have faked being okay and held conversations while on the inside, I was so sick and afraid. I know the pain chronic illness brings. I know the anxiety that gnaws at you day after day. I know the monsters in your head that say “But what if you never get better?” I have hated my body and myself many days. I have worried that not one person on this earth will ever love me again. I have been scared that I will never be able to face another day without losing my mind. I have almost let POTS destroy me.

Almost. You can’t start over, but you can make a new ending.

You can be the one to overcome whatever illness you’re facing. You can be an advocate for others’ (and your) health. You can be stronger than every heartbeat. You can be brave when everyone else is worried sick about you. You can recover from those strange days and nights when something didn’t seem right inside of you. You can beat POTS. You can beat anxiety. You can beat whatever monster you carry around.

You can crush every thing that threatens to destroy you.

And you will. My darling, please believe you will. You will get your spark back in life and one day, amidst all this chaos, and find your purpose. You will be able to run through fields and play in the sun. You will laugh again. You will find good things. You will fall in love and people will love you back.

They will love you back not because you can perform to their level again or you don’t have to go to the doctor every month anymore. They will love you for the vulnerability, strength, bravery, light, compassion and empathy you gained from your illness. They will love you because they know how you kept going even when you didn’t love yourself.

And in the meantime, I will be that person. I believe in you. I don’t know if anyone has told you that today. Maybe they have, but even so, I believe in you. I know you possess strength within you to keep going. Yes, I don’t know you, but I can already tell you’re a pretty strong person for reading this. You’re reading this because you are still believing there is hope.

I am also proud of you. You are so brave for fighting this and all the things that come with it. You are courageous and strong, even when you feel like you’re not. I know you are going places in your life. Maybe not right now, but someday.

If you let it, light will slowly creep in. Day by day, the darkness will get a little less heavy. And before you know it, the sun will rise. And you will be OK.

But if you’re not OK in this moment, this month, this year — whatever time period — that’s OK, too. Because if we don’t give ourselves time to grieve and face the reality of what we’re going through, we will never heal.

After all, isn’t that what we want?

Follow this journey on One Foot in Front of You.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 27, 2016
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