author / blogger


Lame & Fortune

It's no massive revelation for me to suggest that many 'celebrities' portray an unrealistic and often unhealthy idea of how life 'should' be lived. They show us toned bodies, perfect homes, beautiful children. We rarely see the 15 nannies, professional make up artists, stylists, hairdressers and live-in personal trainers they utilise to obtain this idea of perfection. It all looks idyllic, but it's fake. A faux-life lived in luxury that 'normal' people would have to run ourselves ragged in order to even come close to recreating. It's completely un-achievable for those of us on regular salaries, or even no salary at all. We could live a hundred years and never obtain the life our famous counterparts have curated seemingly for our benefit. 

So what of these 'influencers' in relation to chronic illness? 

We are constantly fed two main ideals in living with an invisible/incurable illness: 

1. You can do anything you set your mind to! 

2. This diet / product / lifestyle will cure you, too! 

In response to those points I would suggest; 1 No i can’t! and 2. No it wont! Apart from that, bang on the money. 

So on point 1. It might seem grim or even glib of me to suggest that simply because i have a chronic illness there are activities or experiences i wont be able to take part in in life, but its also accurate. It might also seem slightly depressing; it's not. Listen, of course, OF COURSE there are things i'd still love to do but am aware i can't. Dance all night for example, like i did before arthritis ruined my knees and IBD zapped my energy. BUT i can still dance. I just have to do it in moderation.

I know, i know, 'in moderation' the most BORING phrase in the English language. But do you know what’s also boring? Being hospitalised because you have over exerted yourself and caused damage to an already failing immune system. Almost collapsing because you have pushed your body beyond it's limit. That, let me tell you is not just boring, its embarrassing.

I know my own body - i know what it can and cant withstand, and i know when i'm pushing it too far. These things can only be learnt over time and through experience. Doctors can advise you not to dance to My Sharona on repeat for 4 hrs solid but you'll still do it. Because the music is in you, it just tends to get sidelined by active disease. 

I'm not suggesting just because we have a chronic illness we shouldn’t try new things; we absolutely should. Just exercise a little consideration for our bodies and the potential consequences. Experience with illness teaches us that for every 'fun' thing there is generally a price to pay - so being mindful of that isn’t depressing, it's just sensible! 

When we are met with stories about 'famous' men and women with the same condition as ourselves doing seemingly miraculous things; (running marathons, climbing mountains, winning Olympic medals, walking on water), we may feel one of two ways; inspired or disheartened. For me its generally the latter. That doesn’t mean i don’t think its wonderful what these people are achieving, i absolutely do, but it often just makes me feel maybe i'm not trying hard enough. Maybe i'm resting on my diseased laurels and i COULD win gold in the triple jump if i just set my mind to it.

When we are lying in bed unable to eat, drink or coherently communicate the last thing we need to see is someone with the same illness conquering worlds with the click of their fingers or feeding the 5000. 

The same applies when we are fed information by celebrities or illness 'advocates' which is inaccurate. Naturally, when we are at our lowest ebb and desperately seeking something, anything to take our pain and misery away, an advert for an all-in-one Aloe Vera cure-all smoothie looks more appetising than Bradley Cooper does to Lady Gaga.

Even the most seasoned 'professional' patients often fall foul of these celeb-peddled products. We greedily eat up diet books like they are going out of fashion and force ourselves into changing our lifestyle, often to the detriment of our physical and mental health. When we establish (generally pretty quickly) that living on a diet of herbs, smoothies and bracken found wandering the fairy forest doesn't indeed cure an incurable condition, we are angry, frustrated and back to square 1 emotionally. 

Being promised the world by someone we admire is intoxicating, but we must always remember that the person selling us the world might not always be doing it for the right, or entirely moral reasons, The chronically ill athlete may be able to win gold because he/she isnt suffering as severaely as you; it doesnt make you incapable of ever getting out of bed again.

I'm not suggesting this every celebrity hawking 'health' products is bad and should essentially burn in hell for all eternity, or that we shouldn't celebrate the achievements of those who share a disability with us, but 'Everything in moderation'.

Win gold at looking after number 1. 

Kathleen NichollsComment