I was a little late, and didn’t end up submitting something for the latest edition of Patients For A Moment (PFAM), which was hosted by Selena at Oh My Aches And Pains. Selena’s question for this edition was, Love? Hate? What are the four letter words you use to describe your life with chronic illness?
Despite the fact that I didn’t make it in time to submit, I thought this was a really interesting question, and wanted to take a stab at answering it.
So, if I had to come up with a four letter word to describe illness, it would be life (L-I-F-E).
First of all, illness is a fact of life. At one time or another, everyone becomes ill. For some, this isn’t until they are old and in their final days of life. For others, like me, it happens in our “prime,” which is definitely sucky, but can also be character building and teach us things we never even knew about ourselves.
In a perfect world, illness wouldn’t exist. No one would have to go through the things that so many of us do. But the world isn’t perfect, and neither are we…
I also use the word life because illness has had a broad ranging effect on my life, both absurd and profound. It has caused me to have innumerable identity crises, but it has also forced me to show strength that I never knew I had. You never quite know what you’re made of until you’re called upon to face a situation that shakes you to your very core.
Whatever I was before, and whatever I intended to be after, illness has become inextricably linked with my identity and who I am as a person. Illness is not all of me, but it is a very big part. And I have to be realistic. Illness is a part of my life now. That’s just the way things are.
And illness is a part of life in that it doesn’t just affect the sick person. The people in my life have been impacted by my illnesses, as well as I have. Probably not to the same degree, but illness is one of those things that shows people’s true colors – those who truly love you will be there, even if, especially if, you are ill. Those who don’t, won’t.
Illness has also taught me the capacity to feel (F-E-E-L) in a deep way. I think I’ve always been a caring, feeling person, but illness amps up the senses. Good feels better and bad feels worse. But at the end of the day, I know that I am not numb to the world around me. I feel joy and pain; I am a part of it. Because that’s life…
I guess I might use another four letter word, suck (S-U-C-K). Lately I’ve become very adept at telling things (and people, but not to their faces) to “suck it.” Very mature, I know. Because the truth is, illness can suck. It can also suck the life out of you, physically and emotionally. But rather than concentrate on the negative aspects, I would rather focus on the fact that despite everything I’ve gone through over the past few years, and the fact that things do suck at times, I’m living. I’m alive.
And with every day more I spend on this journey, I’m learning that illness and life are not diametrically opposed to each other. There can still be life in the face of illness.
So, for better or for worse, this is my life…and I’ve only got one…so I’ve got to live with what I’ve got…
On a side note, be sure to check out Selena’s edition of PFAM. And I’ll be hosting PFAM on February 24th. You can base your posts on the following questions: What’s illness got to do with it? What is your relationship to illness? Is there a particular time when you wish illness wasn’t in the picture? Or is there a time when you find it’s easy to forget about illness?