I don’t know about you, but for me and many others I’ve spoken with, having a chronic illness evokes a lot of feelings. You worry that the plans you had for your life aren’t realistic anymore. You miss the life you had before your diagnosis, when you felt healthy and whole. Now you just feel tired, frustrated, angry, and worried. Over the years, some of the things I've heard from people are:
“People don’t understand what I’m going through because I often look healthy on the outside, so they can’t see how terrible I feel on the inside. ”
“I’m so tired of being scared when I wake up in the morning because I have no idea how my body is going to react to the day.”
"I’m nervous about all the days of sick time I’m using at my job but I just don’t have the energy to be there.”
“I feel badly about constantly cancelling social plans with friends because I don’t feel well, so it’s just easier to pull away so I won’t even be invited anymore.”
“ I don’t know how much longer my partner will stick around cause I just feel like such a burden.”
Let’s be honest – living with a chronic illness is a huge drag. Not only does it come with unpleasant physical symptoms, but also intense emotional ones….fear, sadness, confusion, frustration, and just plain anger. Being told you now have an illness that will accompany you through the rest of your life is not something you’ve been taught how to handle. All of the sudden you have to make major life adjustments, which is so stressful on you and your loved ones.
To make it even harder, you might not even feel comfortable talking about your illness with others, so you try to deal with it alone. I know this because I have one. I have Crohn’s Disease. I’ve had it for a while, and I know what you’re going through.
When we first get diagnosed, we immediately learn everything we can about the disease/illness.
What is it?
How did I get it?
What medications do I have to take?
What tests and procedures will I need to have?
What life adjustments will I need to make?
Will people treat me differently?
Will I still be happy?
We inundate ourselves with knowledge in the hope we can make sense of what’s going on, and to control a situation that feels so out of control, when really what we need most is to simply talk about it. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge is valuable and being informed about how to take care of yourself is crucial. But sometimes we’re so busy learning that we don’t make space for feeling.
We know all too well the physical discomforts of having a chronic illness, but what we might not realize is that the emotional side effects are just as devastating to handle. Dealing with an illness is difficult enough, but when we also feel sad, isolated, embarrassed, and damaged, it just makes it more debilitating.