By Amanda O'Dell
Reconciling who you are with who you want to be is one of the biggest, toughest struggles we all face. When you have a chronic illness, this process takes on an entire new mountainside of challenges. Sometimes you wish you weren't assigned this particular mountain as your trial, but I feel we, myself and my fellow chronic illness warriors, are here to show others that it can be moved (or at least walked around).
Chronic pain is not something that can be easily explained. Someone can only genuinely understand it after experiencing it. After awhile, it becomes the background of life. You become so used to pain, you learn how to function through it. It's not that you don't feel it, it's just that your new view on pain makes every day, baseline stabs and aches bearable and liveable. Generally, people who live with this, don't talk about it (unless they're chatting with a chronic illness friend). It can be very isolating living in this world of otherness.
We have to conserve our energy and prioritize what we do each day. Planning ahead becomes necessary. I wish I could say that I've mastered this, but I haven't even successfully graduated to a beginner level. I'm a decade in, and I feel like I'm still flailing and flapping around in the shallow side.
Without fail, on a good day, because who knows when the next one will be, I'll try to do ALL the things and be ALL the things. I will try to seize the day! And relish this moment forever by completing my to-do list! And bask in this day of almost normalcy! And whomp, whomp, the next day, maybe for a week or more, I'm a zombie. The only way I can describe chronic fatigue is to tell you to close your eyes. Imagine you have mono, now add the flu, now add not sleeping for a week. It's something like that.
Grieving who you were before and where you imagined you would be can be draining. Most of us were active and never thought this would be our life. Accepting limitations is discouraging. It took me a long time to realize it's okay to admit it.
And while all of this can be pretty negative, I try to stay positive. We all do. This is our one life, and we want to live a meaningful, purposeful, beautiful one. I can definitely tell you that I'm a million percent more empathic than I would have been if I never got sick. I don't take walking for granted. While my body disappoints me, I know how hard it is fighting. I've met so many people who are loving and brave and supportive. I wake up everyday thankful.
About the Writer:
Amanda writes about her experience with chronic illness and striving to stay positive in her blog Red Panda Paleo. Recently, it has been a setting for musings and poetry.