Last week I was sick, so there was no new blog post, and my (live) social media took a bit of a hit. Thankfully I have an app that shares my previous posts for me to social media platforms. I knew I wanted to talk about last week’s illness experience with you today and one of the things that hit me when reflecting on it was from a generally healthy person’s perspective am I not always sick?
In today’s post, I am going to be talking about the difference between chronic illness and being ill and a little bit about what happens when both conditions descend on you at the same time.
Sickness – a brief overview
Do you think I am going to patronise you by explaining what sickness means? Come on, guys! What I will say is if you have never experienced any illness until now you must be blessed with miraculous genes and a wonderfully healthy lifestyle. I am somewhat envious. However, you have probably missed out on many of the pleasures of life too, so scrap that I am not particularly jealous after all, I’d prefer to take the rough with the smooth.
For this blog, I am categorising sickness as something that appears for a brief amount of time and goes away. I am aware that the word can be used in other contexts too, but as I am writing this, I’ll use my definition.
I was sick last week
On Wednesday I had a bad day with my IBS, it was one of the worst bouts I have had for a couple of years and the last time this happened the hospital admitted me in the early hours of the next morning. Thankfully it settled down throughout the evening, and I was fairly well on Thursday.
On Friday I had a horrific day. I woke up with a headache that got worse as the day went on. Twice during the day, I ended up vomiting, and I spend the majority of the day in bed. I’m not sure if it was a migraine or not? It certainly matched the description of one, but a doctor has not officially confirmed it was a migraine. Thankfully I only experience this migraine style headache infrequently, so I have not yet raised it with the GP.
Not overly sick
Throughout most of my life, I have not been especially sickly. Don’t get me wrong I had the majority of childhood diseases that go around. I occasionally missed days off school and maybe even the odd week but nothing overly significant. During adulthood, life continued in the same vein. If you discount the times when I have broken bones etc., I have been relatively healthy in general. Regarding isolated occasions of being sick, I would say even now when I am chronically ill it is still the case.
So what is it like to have a chronic illness and how is this different from being sick? The first thing to look at is longevity. Think back to the last time you were ill, maybe you had a cold, an upset tummy or a virus? I imagine it interrupted your life because you were not expecting it. The majority of people who are not chronically ill hope to be well most of the time, and it is always a surprise when you find you are sick. When you live with chronic illness this tends to work out the other way around, you get used to being unwell and occasionally out of nowhere you wake up feeling great.
Speaking specifically about Fibromyalgia there is a whole range of symptoms you may experience on any particular day. If a healthy person catches a cold, he/she pretty much knows what to expect. When I had my migraine style headache, I could anticipate what may follow. If you have a chronic illness like Fibro, there are so many variables that not only can no two days be the same but a day may start out in one way and end up completely different. It is now over three years since my symptoms began and I still occasionally get new variables. Thankfully, there is such a strong Fibro community online that someone has usually experienced it before and has some tips to manage it. – Imagine next time you get sick discovering that other patients may be a better source of information than an awful lot of doctors. I’ll let you dwell on that one for a while…
Getting Sick or being Chronically Ill
So I have hopefully clarified to some degree the difference between living with a chronic illness that is with you on the majority of days to varying degrees and being sick which is usually time-limited and tends to follow a set pattern. Now let’s look at resilience. Before I developed Fibromyalgia when I got sick with something typical like a bad cold I may have needed to be off sick for the worst day or two from work. I could go to bed early and rest at the weekends and build my strength up again. Once I had recovered from the bug, my jam-packed life could continue as it usually did.
In the early days of Fibromyalgia, I attempted to use this same logic, but the plan was flawed. One of the problems of Fibro is the complete change to your energy levels. This experience is explained so well in the spoon theory which I am aware I have linked to in the past but now it, unfortunately, has some less than appropriate advertising on the page. Just Google the Spoon Theory, and I am sure you can find all the details.
Adapting to Chronic Illness
As those of you who have read my blog for quite some time will know the most significant change in my life happened when I asked to be dismissed from work. Although initially, this was a massive step backwards in how I viewed myself and my health since then this has turned around, and I now feel positive. Let me explain why.
When you are chronically ill, and you have minimal resources, it would be effortless to “give up.” No, I don’t mean on life, realising how you could read that, I mean I could relax all the time and give myself no responsibilities whatsoever. I don’t have any children so what is stopping me some might think. Well, I am stopping me. You may have seen my post about The Importance of Work when you have Fibromyalgia that I wrote before I left my job. I am still the same person who wrote that, and I still have the same ethic I have adapted how I view work though.
I Feel Proud
Although I do not make an income, which is still how unfortunately much of society judges people. I no longer actively participate in worship at my Church, and I don’t participate in stage productions. I have so much that makes me feel incredibly proud. I have created and maintained this blog for over two years when so many get dropped within the first year. I have continued to be a card maker and more recently decided to concentrate on improving my colouring skills to further enhance my cardmaking (and for the pure pleasure and mindfulness of colouring, check out my post on the Many Benefits of Adult Colouring.) I continue to dip in and out of my genealogy research finding new relatives all over the world on a fairly regular basis. I spend time on Social Media most days helping to share much-needed positivity in a cyber world full of trolls.
Do I complain?
When I get sick like I was last week I inevitably feel sorry for myself and have a bit of a grumble. You show me a healthy person who doesn’t moan when they get sick. Let’s face it the sickness is on top of Fibromyalgia which always does its best to complicate things. For instance, the best thing to do with an acute headache is to lie in bed and sleep it off but when you have Fibro spending too long in bed can hurt your body more.
I feel Grateful
The majority of the time when I am just chronically ill and not sick I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunities my condition has given me. After typing this statement, I sat back and looked at the screen for a while because I was shocked that I just wrote that, but there is so much truth in the statement. Here are some of the reasons why:
- I have got to know so many wonderful, interesting people who happen to have a chronic illness.
- The physical limitations of my condition allowed me to spend more time on my passions.
- I have grown in empathy and compassion.
- When I go anywhere, even a local park or shop, I truly appreciate the opportunity to visit it.
- I have the time to develop my skills in crafting.
- I can do my work when I am well and rest when I am not without guilt.
- I can take time every day to be in the moment and be grateful for what I have.
If you are currently struggling with a chronic illness and have not been able to find any pleasures in life, why not stop and think about what you may have gained to replace what you have lost or had to give up. You may surprise yourself if you are open to it. I’d love to hear what you come up within the comments below.
That is all I have for you today. If you are new here, you can find many other Fibromyalgia related posts here.