Young, Sick and Invisible

My illness has shaped me,
But it does not define me.

'I like to be alone, but I hate being lonely.'


surfer

From the very moment we are born, we are constantly forming bonds and relationships with those around us. Starting with our parents and continuing throughout our lives. Having a chronic illness however can holt all of this, yes we have the relationships we had made before hand, but it prevents progress and is naturally isolating.

When Illness strikes it often alters our thoughts, priorities, and routines, in which they start to revolve around managing our own wellness and preventing the illness from controlling our lives. This creates a new normal that can make it difficult to relate to the lives we once had or to the lives of those around us. It does not help that chronic illnesses are often invisible and the people around us may not understand that illness can be constant, progressive, unpredictable and incurable.

It is also common to want to hide or protect those around us from the negative emotional or physical effects of our disease. A common protective measure is using other excuses to avoid a situation, when in reality it is infact our illnesses that is the genuine cause for the avoidance. Chronic illnesses can leave us in a state of hopeless despair at our lowest points and while it may be perceived as a sign of strength to keep it all inside or put on a positive front, such courageous efforts often backfire and only increase isolation. One of the things I have learned through a year of chronic illness is that people are only capable of empathising with what they can understand. If you give them straight and honest answers rather than protecting them from your reality they will be able to have a glimpse of what you endure and potentially be there for you as a friend or support, now I know that more often then not this isn't the case, instead we get the 'well get better soon' answers.

It is also common to just want to avoid talking about our illness when we have an opportunity to lose ourselves in some fun or enjoyable company. This is completely understandable, you know your friends and family best and only you can decide how far you let each person in. People have different levels of comfort and an ability to empathise with darker subjects such as illness. If we are going to be vulnerable ourselves it is often difficult when others just don't get it. My advice is too not take it personally and know that while others may not suffer from your illness, everyone is fighting their own battles and they may feel for you even though they can't express it. The simple act of letting people know is the important piece.

Chronic illnesses can deprive us of so much of our lives. It can attack our bodies, test our spirits, and consume our thoughts. It is so important to reach out, be honest, and bring others into our world that we trust; otherwise, the disease will not only deprive us of our health but also of the connections we deserve.

Until next Monday,

Bethany S.

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