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What We Need to Remember About the Loved Ones Affected By Our Illness

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My life changed when I was 15. It wasn’t something I ever wished for, but it happened. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, or RA for short. It meant a lot of horrible things: sleepless nights, pain for the rest of my life, limitations my peers would not experience, lots of visits to doctors, needles, medicine and loads of blood tests!

Like I said, it wasn’t something anyone would ever wish on themselves or on another, but it happened, and as I have grown older and accepted my illness, I have learned a little bit about what it has given me. Not only has my illness made me a stronger person and a fighter, but it has shown me how the little things in life are the most important and how family and friends will get you through anything.

Because we feel so isolated, like no one understands our pain and everyone is judging us, sometimes we can forget how much the people we love actually do for us. Will they ever truly understand if they are not ill themselves? No. Will they often say things that hurt us or make us feel as though we are not doing good enough? Yes. But do they mean to hurt us? Do they mean to make us feel like a lesser person? No.

When someone is ill, everyone imagines what life must be like for that person. And I have been there; I know what it’s like. Every day of your life will be tough, you will have to fight and your life will change after becoming ill. But so will the lives of the people around you. Your partner will have to help more, but they will also feel helpless at times. When you are curled in a ball and crying on the bed in agony, they will be experiencing their own type of discomfort. The person they love is in pain and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. Your children will not be able to play as roughly with you, you won’t be able to go on as many nights out with your friends and you won’t be able to work as late as you used to.

Our illness unfortunately doesn’t just affect us but those around us as well. However, there is a light in all of this – that even when our problems affect our loved ones, they still try to help, try to understand and try to not let it affect our relationships.

I have so many people to be thankful for. My mom and dad, who took me to hospital appointments, who held my hand when I wailed in pain, who sorted my medicine and took time off work to look after me. My aunts and uncles, who not only helped out with the hospital runs and babysat my siblings when I was stuck at an appointment all day, but who also supported my mom and dad emotionally as they worried about my health.

I am thankful for my sister who was just 13 when I was diagnosed, who helped me dress in the morning and take my socks off at night. Who cuddled me as I cried and who always reminds others to slow down and wait for me.

I am thankful for my partner, Aidan, who accepts me for who I am, illness and all. Who rubs my back when I’m fighting back the tears and who is patient with me when I struggle with basic daily tasks. Who helps me dress when my hands are too swollen to function and who makes me laugh to try and distract me from my pain.

I am thankful for my brother and father-in-law who show me their affection in the form of fires and hot cups of tea to keep my bones warm. Who carry my shopping bags in from the car or open jars for me when I am unable.

I am thankful for my sister-in-law who is always trying to find ways to help cure me or make me better with natural remedies. I am thankful for my little brother who named me as his role model because at just 12 he saw what I was going through.

I am thankful for my friends who do all they can to understand my illness and who are the biggest supporters of my blog. They carry my bags when I am too sore and show only understanding when I have to back out of plans. Who make me feel “normal” and don’t treat me like something that is easily broken.

I am thankful for my little nephews, niece and my littlest sister who make me laugh so much I almost forget about the pain. They get me blankets and give me cuddles when I don’t feel well and ask me questions in a bid to understand why my bones are different to others.

This illness takes so much from you and at times it can be hard to see any light at all. But the love people show you, the care they give you when you are unable to care yourself…people need to stop seeing that as a loss of dignity and instead see it as something beautiful to behold.

Not everyone will understand, and you may lose some people along the way. But those people were not needed in your life if they could only accept you as a healthy person. No one chooses to get sick, no one chooses to be in pain. Those who choose to cut you out and who don’t even attempt to understand your new life are not meant to be in that life. Why not say thanks to those who show you love and compassion. They might not be going through what you are going through, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their best.

Follow this journey on Facebook or The Girl with the Old Lady Bones.

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Originally published: November 17, 2016
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