Chronic Illness, Health

Is Chronic Illness A Life Sentence?

Today I am pondering days.  The countless days, weeks, months and years I have been ‘sick’.  All of the days since I was first diagnosed with a chronic illness, and even the days before that when I suffered with symptoms but remained undiagnosed.

Those days could be seen as a waste, and many, many times I have seen them as such.

I have wished away many days when I was feeling awful, my symptoms were flaring and I was barely physically able to accomplish anything, let alone the long list of things that I had dreamed up in my mind to do.

I have placed all my effort into wishing for healthier days when I can accomplish more than is currently possible in my life.  Instead of appreciating what I have, no matter how little it may seem, I have wanted to change and manipulate my current situation into something that it just isn’t possible for it to be.

Wishing and hoping for things to be different is a common theme in chronic illness, and it doesn’t matter what physical or mental health issue you might have.  Hoping for a better future (or a different now) isn’t wrong – in fact I think for me it is a  kind of coping mechanism to get through the hardest of days.  Sometimes I think if I could just wish hard enough, or behave well enough, or take care of myself perfectly that things will change for the better.

The reality is though that no matter what I do, things don’t always get better.  Chronic illness has it’s own timetable and will wax and wane as it pleases depending on a number of factors including medical treatment, my body’s ability to cope and self care.

So, is chronic illness a life sentence?

For me, the answer to that question depends on the day.  On the really bad days, of course your chronic illness feels like it’s a big part of your life that you can’t control or get rid of.  But on the better days when your health issues can co-exist with your daily life and you can accomplish things on your to-do list, is it such a big deal as it is on the bad days?

In short, I think that whether chronic illness is a life sentence comes down to how you perceive it.  Yes, so many of us (including me) are living with health issues that are currently incurable, and require ongoing treatment just to manage them.  That is a tough gig on a day to day basis, to be managing something that you know deep down isn’t going away any time soon.  But at the same time, I try to see my chronic health issues through this lens – ‘you are a part of my life, but you are not my whole life’.

So what I want to say to you today is –

Whether you’re out there in the world today getting stuff done, or at home on the couch, in bed or in the bathroom having a rough time – know this:

You are doing the best you can with whatever your body and the universe have come together to give you today.  Don’t beat yourself up about it – no matter what your day has brought, you’re living it and that is to be commended.  Hey, if you’re eating ice cream in your pyjamas at 3pm – good on you!  No judgements here, because we all know how some days the only things we have the effort for are those that bring comfort and are essential to our own self-preservation.

Most importantly of all – you are not living a life sentence, you are just living a life.

Caroline xx

PS – Let me know your thoughts on this post!  Do you see your chronic illness as a life sentence?  What helps you get through the bad days?  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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