To that person with chronic illness who’s experiencing heartache because of a distant loved one, you are not alone. My heart is heavy for not only myself but the other people with chronic illness who are struggling to hold relationships with loved ones while battling their own health and body. It’s inevitable — when you are chronically ill, it will affect every relationship you have. Friends, marriage, family, coworkers… it doesn’t matter who it is because chronic illness doesn’t care. And sometimes it’s minor changes and other times it will gnaw at you from the inside.
It’s a sad reality, but chronic illness will show you peoples’ true colors. You will see who ultimately cares enough to stick by your side when you and/or your health hits rock bottom. It can disappoint you, shock, sadden, crush and even amaze you how some people will be during these trying times. Not all of our loved ones show support in the same ways, and some do a killer job at it while others will outright forsake you. We don’t expect much, but even a simple phone call, text or question just to check on us every so often would be nice. Or if we happen to open up because that burden is too heavy to hold in, please don’t judge us. Just listen or if you really want to step it up then be that shoulder for us to cry on.
It’s not fair to us because we did not choose our illness and we cannot change it. You can change your hair, clothes, and even attitude, but you can’t change your illness. Not to mention many of us with chronic illness also battle depression and anxiety that accompany our already difficult disease.
On the other hand, I think it is very hard for outsiders looking in to even imagine our lives, pain and struggles. I have learned that different personalities handle illness differently. Some may be sympathetic, some may want to be supportive but don’t know how, some run, some talk behind your back, others are indifferent and some are left baffled. And truthfully, some people get downright tired of hearing about it. I know I get tired of dealing with it, so I’m sure it’s not fun to always hear about it either. This is why so many chronically ill people, including myself, try to tough it out and act as normal as possible. Or why we say we are “good” when we really feel like total crap that day. Then we get accused of faking being sick when we were actually faking being healthy.
I have Chronic Lyme disease, babesia (co-infection of Lyme), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), hypothyroidism, and chronic fatigue syndrome and still going through treatment and management protocols. I am on 31 different medications every single day totaling to almost 60 pills a day. The worst part is that I have loved ones that have not been loyal and others have been indifferent, not even sincerely asking how I am doing. It breaks my heart to admit this, but I even think some may not believe I am truly sick. Honestly though, that’s an issue in their own heart and all I can do is pray and hope that judgement or misunderstanding no longer impedes their compassion.
I have my limits, though. The things I cannot tolerate are my character or illnesses being judged or doubted by loved ones. My pain is real. My illnesses are real. I do not do this for attention. I do this for awareness and to be a voice for others.
Our lives are hard enough. And one day when we feel better, those loved ones who once judged us or abandoned us may see that we were warriors fighting bigger battles than they could see. We can hope, pray and even try to push for that day of reconciliation, but what’s meant to be will happen.
So for those of you in pain physically and emotionally, I hope time helps ease your pain. I hope you remember that you are not alone. I hope you all find love and support when you need it the most. Until our pain subsides, we just have to focus on minimizing stress in our lives, being happy and trying to get healthy again.