Being chronically ill is like being confined to a hamster wheel. Your only options are thrusting forward with maximum momentum or sliding backward with a conscious lack of urgency. Some days you want to slump back into bed, opting out of the fight the day will require of you. Throw in anxiety and depression, and your will is not your own anymore. You have a say, but yours isn’t the only one.
There’s no handbook explaining how to deal with the reality of being chronically ill, day in and day out. The sooner you realize this life is going to be a never-ending campaign, the better.
In the beginning, you’re drowning in symptoms and appointments. You’re logging food intolerances and sleep patterns and trying to keep from falling apart. But soon, there is a calm, a peaceful place draped in sorrow.
Welcome to hell: breakfast is a pile of pills washed down with dissolvable probiotics stirred in water. Kidding. Well, kind of. You see, this is the part where things get better, because you’re fighting for yourself. Why? Because you’ve been to hell, and you’ve clawed your way back. Hell is where the darkness wins. Your anxiety convinces you there is no light at the end of the tunnel, that it’s not worth fighting toward making tomorrow a better day. But it is, because you’re fighting for your life. In the quiet of hopelessness, let your battle cry rise up in your heart, louder than your anxiety and depression.
In the haze clouding the likelihood that you’ll climb out of bed and face the day, lies your greatest power: decision. Loose the grips you have on fear and decide to live for your future, because unfortunately, you’re probably going to have one.
In the realm of chronic illness, one must grapple with the taunting overshadowing promise of viability. Your chronic illnesses won’t kill you, but they’ll sure make you wish they would. Despair is a sneaky devil, taking root in your deepest fears, latching onto your insecurities, your vulnerability, your shame. It gives voice to the quiet doubts you hold in secret, acting like an incubator of thoughts that disarm you of the weapons you need to fight each day you are tasked with completing.
Don’t show up to a gunfight with a knife. Bring your bazooka. Prioritize sleep. Exercise consistently (yes, especially when it hurts). Take your medicine. Eat. Visit your doctors regularly. Resist the urge to self-destruct.
You can feel sad, but don’t gorge on comfort foods that will leave you reeling in pain. You can rest, but don’t forfeit your exercise routine because you’re going through a bad flare. It hurts, but the only way it will hurt less tomorrow is if you overcome today. Each day you forfeit, the climb back to normalcy steepens. That’s worth remembering, because there are days when normalcy doesn’t seem worth the battle. You’re wrong. Normalcy is where happiness lives. Gratitude and joy fill your heart, even as your stomach rumbles. Confidence animates you, even when your limbs are stiff and sore. Smiling comes more naturally than grimacing.
Decide: Are you going to live for making today less unbearable or for making tomorrow more bearable?
You may know the diagnoses, but fight the temptation to believe the crystal ball has revealed every truth.
You have a say.
Allison Jonergin is a SUNY Plattsburgh alumna and North Country native. She has fibromyalgia, CFS/ME and endometriosis. She also deals with irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression and migraines.
This is part of a monthly series of guest blogs. Each month NCCI will choose up to 2 submitted blog posts from North Country writers on disability-related topics. This is a paid opportunity. Click here for more information.