A chronic illness is a human health condition or disease that is persistent. The term chronic is usually applied once the condition had persisted for over 3 months.
I have had chronic labyrinthitus for the last 6 months. The main symptoms are anxiety,insomnia, vertigo,tinnitus, depression and exhaustion. At first I was reluctant to use the word chronic.There are other people who are FAR worse off. A family member bravely fighting breast cancer and winning as we speak. I couldnt even BEGIN to put myself in the same boat as them. But now when I think of how long it has effected my life, I have to admit its had a huge impact. Physically and emotionally, and with my relationships too. I’m lucky that although I can no longer work as I cannot use a computer without having vertigo/ exhaustion, I am getting stronger and able to walk further every day now. Here are the top 10 things I have learnt.
1. To have compassion for others.
Chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety. Chronic doesn’t necessarily mean life threatening.
I must admit, I never took anxiety too seriously. I am a born worrier myself, so when others tell me they have chronic anxiety, it wasn’t until I had it myself that I could see what a debilitating condition this is. A month of persistent obsessive thoughts and only a few hours sleep a night can make you really think you’re losing the plot. A person may look fine on the outside, but to feel anxious 24/7 is mentally and physically exhausting. I am now more sensitive to what I previously considered were ‘manageable’ conditions.
2. You Value your friends and family more than ever
I always took what I had for granted. I didn’t go out of my way to build up relationships with my family. They do their thing, I do mine. Its only now this has occurred I value hearing them on the phone more than ever. As for my friends, the petty arguments or annoyances I used to have with a few of them are meaningless now. It can be so lonely when you cant go out and have a normal social life for months on end and you feel forgotten about. To have regular communication keeps you in the loop and is vital for your sanity.
3. Your Self esteem takes a HUGE hit!
Ok, so everyone has self esteem issues, but I find this has greatly amplified everything. I can put make up on, a nice outfit, but I cant join in the others in social activities. I also think my partner sometimes would be better off with someone that CAN go out and socialise without feeling constantly dizzy and exhausted. Someone that he CAN go on holiday with, or away for a weekend. Someone that can walk up the road without having to hold onto his arm all the time as they feel the ground moving. You want to be their EQUAL not their patient. You want to have energy, be happy, laugh and make plans together. This is all put on hold and you have no idea when it will end.
4. There is ALWAYS someone worse off than you.
Learning to have gratitude can be very very hard but tonight I have a warm bed to sleep in. I have enough money to buy food and warm winter clothes. Unlike the guy in the sleeping bag in an alley down Hammersmith high street. I AM lucky and I AM grateful for the small things that I took for granted before. I am more sensitive and more giving to other peoples needs.
5. Shame, Guilt and Pride
We used to go to school no matter what, rain, wind or shine….. or a heavy cold. We even had 100% attendance for a few years so when it came to being off sick I felt a lot of guilt. The more I tried to work through it and chose my job over my health, the more my health suffered. I worked myself until I could no longer work at all. I felt ashamed. Taking sick days were frowned upon and now I need to be signed off for a few possible months. I am letting people down, they must be struggling to keep up with my workload. They are relying on me. Above all HEALTH comes first.
I also used to be very social and out going. I liked to see myself as a strong, stoic person. Out of pride I usually play down how I am really feeling to retain the fun Sian, the party Sian…. not the ill Sian who’s always bailing out on events and never goes out anymore. I don’t want to them to know that I cried that morning and felt like giving up. That I feel I am losing my mind and feel lonely. I do NOT want to be seen as a VICTIM. It’s only after opening up that I realised this was a condition that’s effects MILLIONS of people, some that have been suffering for 15 years or more. More importantly I have realised I am not alone.
6. You learn to cope….
After months on end of the same condition, you learn to get on with life. You take advantage of that good day you are having and go to the cinema. Even if the pavement is moving when you walk! You go to the pub across the road and enjoy that drink. For an hour or two you forget that you are ill. That’s the point. Not to CONSTANTLY focus on it. Im a great believer in you can manifest through emotions the good AND the bad and draw that experience into your life. Who wants to manifest more suffering?