Mental and physical illnesses have changed me as a person. I recall crying to my now-husband afraid he would not like the person I will become after treatment for my mental health. In reality, treatment of my mental health has improved much of who I am. I'm stable. I can think things through. I can breathe. My physical health was a whole other matter.

I'm fatigued, cranky, impatient. On my best days, or even relatively good days, I'm kind, thoughtful, present, joyful. When flare ups hit, when I run out of spoons because I've gone to 10 appointments this week, and my children still need fed and cared for, when I can't sleep because my sleep meds didn't work quickly enough to handle the pain. I'm a different person.

I've come to largely isolate myself. I don't want people to see me like this. I don't want people to see my messy house. I don't want them to see me use my walker when the pain and fatigue is just too much. I don't want to explain that I really need a service dog, but I'm too exhausted to train my SDiT as he needs to be. I don't want to deal with emotions of disappointment or disbelief that I have to cancel yet another hangout because I used all of my spoons playing with my children. I'm a terrible friend, and I know it. I know I'm a loving, thoughtful, kind friend. I listen. I work to provide a judge free zone for others to share their dark thoughts. I can give you an ear, but I can't give you me. I won't be there. I want to be. It eats away at me that I'm not who I want to be. I want to chase after my children. I want to take them to every exciting event. I want to watch my friends perform. I want to march the streets for Pride and Women's rights. I want to be there! But I won't be. I'll be here, coping, grieving, finding my balance as I navigate the chemotherapy, dozens of appointments my children and I need to be stable, and my marriage. Self-care also has to fit in there somewhere. It takes every bit of energy I have to do these things. What are even showers these days? Naps? Eating a hot meal? Who knows. I sure don't.

One day though, I hope I will be the presence I desire to be. For now, I'll be the mom who teaches his children how to take care of themselves. I will empower them to stand firm and fight for what they believe in. I will cheer my friends on as they march the streets. I will commiserate with their pain and sorrows. I will be here. You may not see me, but I am there. One day, it won't be this hard. Today is not that day, but one day it will be.

#ChronicIllness #Depression #Anxiety #PTSD #AnkylosingSpondylitis #Arthritis #ReitersSyndrome #Parenting #ChronicPain #Fatigue