Disclaimer: Jennifer is another beautiful guest writer who has graciously opened up to share her story about living with chronic illness. All views expressed are her own xx
Shit You Should Care About… Living with chronic illness
When I was asked to write about living with chronic illness for ‘Shit You Should Care About’ I was initially very excited, closely followed by being extremely overwhelmed. It’s hard to know where to begin when being sick has been my entire life.
In my 21 years I have learned to live with what seems like an ever-growing and ever-changing list of illnesses. I have thought a lot about what I wanted to express in this piece of writing, and in true Jen form I have decided to write a list of the ways that I have learned to cope with the day to day struggles of being chronically ill.
Give yourself time to grieve
It may seem dramatic but I have found that grieving is extremely important, as it allows your illness to be a part of, but not overtake, your life. Acknowledging your struggles and allowing yourself to take a step back and realise that you have lost something is crucial to being able to move forward. For me, I grieve my teenage years. I feel that I lost so much time that should have been spent enjoying my youth. Instead my youth was spent in hospitals, undergoing tests and constantly being afraid of what was going to happen to me next.
Allow others to be a part of your recovery
No matter what you are facing in your health, you should never have to face it alone. I wasted a lot of time being embarrassed about what I was going through, and as a result I became isolated from friends and from family – I was angry that people didn’t understand my illness. I realise now that I didn’t give the people close to me the opportunity to learn about it or support me. It’s ok to want to be left alone, but if you’re feeling alone, the cure is to talk to people. Let the people around you listen and offer advice, let people know when you’re having a hard time and when people ask ‘how are you?’ be honest. I have found that being open about my health to
my family, friends and employers is the best way to fight the stigma of invisible illnesses and let people get to know the part of you that so many of us keep hidden. It’s ok to want to talk about it and it’s ok to let people ask questions.
Make sure to have quiet time to yourself
I work with people all day every day and as much as love my career, it can be exhausting. I always give myself time in the evenings and on my days off to have alone time and unwind. For me managing stress is a major part of keeping healthy. I am so much happier and healthier when I go easy on myself and make time to be alone and focus on regaining some energy. My favourite thing to do as my alone time is heading to the gym for a half hour or however long my body permits, to work on building confidence within myself, and feel like I have achieved something. Other favourites are taking a long bath, having a cup of tea, watching re-runs of friends and taking gentle walks around beautiful Marlborough.
It is so easy to become overwhelmed with pain and sickness when you’re suffering from chronic illness, but it doesn’t have to be your whole life. I know that it hurts, I know that you’re exhausted and I know that it’s sometimes too much to bare. I also know that you are more than your disease and you are allowed to take back control over your life and make changes to be happier. Allowing yourself time to grieve, sharing with others and taking time out for yourself are sometimes easier said than done, however they are great ways to gain perspective when you’re feeling like you’ve lost control.
For those suffering, keep fighting, and for those not, try to lend a listening ear to somebody who is struggling. A problem shared is a problem halved and while we will always being fighting this battle, it is so reassuring to know that we are not carrying the burden alone.
Lastly, I believe that you know your body best and if you are not being taken seriously or are not receiving the care you need, please seek a second opinion. It is way too common for us to suffer in silence because of not being taken seriously. Be kind to yourself despite feeling let down or trapped in a body that often feels like a cage.