Turn and Face the Strange
I've lived with various chronic illnesses for well over a decade now. By my own calculations I've always been 'ill' to some degree, as far back as I can remember. I don’t recall a time I felt 'well'. My body has always felt somewhat 'other', not normal, (whatever that is). And not just because I looked like a gangly male ironing board for the majority of my childhood; but because I can't remember how it feels not to feel nauseous, or exhausted, or in pain.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a great childhood; I could laugh and play and get up to all sorts of mischief with my peers, but I always felt there was something not quite right. I didn't worry too much about it in the early days, I just chalked any weird tummy rumblings, toilet issues or feeling sick after every morsel I ate, down to growing up and that I'd soon grow out of it all once I was an adult.
Reader, I didn't.
Now that I'm that fully-fledged adult with all the frown lines and bills and endless conversations about bin-day under my belt to prove it, I have come to terms with much of the impact on my life being perpetually ill has had. I know my body much better than I once did and understand (mostly) how it works (and why it doesn't when it doesn’t). I know how to treat it with kindness and I try not to rage at it when it betrays me.
Chronic illness and continued and consistent pain can and will undoubtedly change a person. Not always entirely for the worse; in my case it has brought me clarity on what and who in my life is important. It has allowed me to work on my own flaws and my own self-worth and self-image and reminded me that health is paramount. It has helped me see there should be no shame or embarrassment around how the body works; that the more we talk the easier it gets. Its helped me see that not everyone will 'get' it, and that’s OK.
But with all those positive side effects to a chronic illness, there are understandably negatives. Lots of them. For me, I try my best not to get bogged down in the negative ways my illness had changed me; but at the same time, I think it’s important to shine a light on them in an effort to try and help myself.
I don’t like that being incurably ill has made me angry, anxious, irritable, frustrated, withdrawn. I don’t like the impact it has on my family, my partner, my friends, my work and social life. I hate that it makes me oftentimes judgmental or impatient. But I have also made myself aware of all of that, and do my best to live around it. Also, I’m not for a minute implying I was little miss perfect pre-disease; I was also a walking human nightmare with a lorryload of neuroses before I got ill, now I just have medically confirmed reasons for most of them.
I'm not suggesting I shouldn’t feel all of these things either. I am entitled to. Anyone with an illness that is affecting and/or essentially shortening their life, is wholly permitted to feel angry and sad about that fact. It's when we let those feelings consume us entirely that we make things harder for ourselves. We are entitled to wallow, weep and wail about our plight - in moderation. Don’t let that become the norm. Feeling sad, and angry every day is exhausting, I for one just don’t have the energy for it…