By Maureen DeGarmo
Those of us who battle a chronic illness think differently than others. We filter everything through the difficult lens of “how does this affect my illness?” This is a necessity, not a luxury. Here are the top five ways that illness affects my life.
- Direct Side-Effects: When our bodies don’t function well, many parts of our life change. Digestive illnesses make going out to eat awkward or impossible. Someone with chronic back pain may not be able to sit through an entire movie at a theater. A person with a traumatic brain injury may forget a conversation you just had yesterday. These are the direct effects.
- Family: Every decision that I make affects my family. For example, a 20-minute drive causes increased vertigo for 1-2 days afterward, but if someone drives me, my symptoms are less severe. Also, for each choice – whether it is fun or productive – another activity must be reduced or eliminated. Therefore, each choice requires careful consideration before making any commitments.
- Schedule: The more activities I that do, the more rest I need. So, my schedule must be more flexible, and with more downtime, than that of someone without health challenges. “No commitment” days must be worked into my schedule in order to manage any type of activity.
- Sleep: Some of my friends wake up easily at 5:30 am. (How is that possible?) Chronic illness symptoms – such as pain – can make getting to sleep difficult, and once I manage to fall asleep, I need to sleep until I wake up naturally. Sleep heals, and therefore must be a priority.
- Energy: Chronic pain and chronic vertigo (my two constant companions) rob me of energy in more ways than others realize. Not only do I not sleep well, but pain can also make logic and memory functions difficult. When the body is trying to spend all of its energy on healing, there is not much left for normal activities such as exercise, errands, working or spending time with family.
If you are a person with a chronic illness, then you may recognize yourself here. Please share this post with your family and friends who do have a chronic illness. It might help them better understand what you experience.