Having a chronic illness can be life-changing and the impacts on those affected by being chronically ill can sometimes be forgotten. Often people sympathise with the pain that comes with from being chronically ill, but in fact, the pain, for me at least, is only a small part that endometriosis has on me.
Therefore, I wanted to share the impacts that having a chronic illness can have on my everyday life, from the serious impacts it has on my work and my mental health, to the trivial things that seem ridiculous but have an impact none-the-less. While this post is a bit on the heavier side, I wanted to write it just to highlight some of the issues that face people who suffer from a chronic illness, that perhaps people who don’t have a chronic illness would not understand.
I hope it is useful for you and will help you support and understand those people in your lives that may suffer from a chronic illness. Oh, and for those of you that do suffer from some kind of illness, please read my ‘Tips For Living With A Chronic Illness’ – I hope you find it useful.
One of the biggest impacts of my chronic illness is how it affects my job. At the moment I work part-time and even then I get run down, which is when flares up occur. I am routinely having to take time off and as someone who takes pride in what they do and doesn’t like to let the team down, it can be endlessly frustrating.
I am very fortunate that I have an understanding boss who has no problems with me taking as much time off as I do. She is very flexible with my needs and allows me to make up the time I have taken off, on days when I feel better, so I don’t need to worry about money.
However despite my understanding boss now, it does make me worried for the future on how I could possibly progress in any career if I am constantly needing to take time off work. I’ve had to re-evaluate a couple of life goals in order to manage my expectations, but I consider myself incredibly lucky as I have a supportive partner who can pay the mortgage easily if I can’t contribute and no children who depend on me.
Simply put, if you are ill, you can’t work and therefore you are not earning money. Therefore the biggest impact of suffering from a chronic illness is how to make a living. I am incredibly incredibly lucky, but there are people with chronic illness who aren’t as fortunate.
Another one of the hardest things about having a chronic illness is that it is often invisible to the outside world. Chronic pain and discomfort are not always immediately clear, so it can be difficult to explain that you are suffering when everything looks ‘fine and normal’ on the outside.
Trying to explain endometriosis is particularly hard as well, as it revolves around the taboo subjects of periods and reproductive health. I struggle with the embarrassment that comes with discussing my condition, especially when talking to male colleagues if I am ill or suffering, despite wanting to be more open and vocal about endometriosis as I know that is how to spread awareness. When I’m in pain its physically and mentally tiring and in those moments I don’t want to be ‘fighting the good fight’ to educate people (especially men) on why I’m suffering.
If someone has a broken leg, you can see it and empathize. When someone is suffering from chronic pain it is hard to understand and relate too – and that can be exhausting.
The link between physical health and mental health is scarcely discussed, but it should not be underestimated how suffering from physical health can impact someone mentally. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can be life-changing and it can be a lot to wrap your head around.
When my symptoms first started and I was having multiple hospital trips, I became very down, unmotivated and I felt very sorry for myself. It took a lot for me to start focusing on the good and while I still have blips, I’ve come to accept my life now and that I’m never going to be 100% healthy. Good support from both friends and family has allowed me to vent, cry and express all my emotions – but without that network in place I would have struggled to come to terms with my illness.
Mental health can be just as damaging as the physicall pain from a chronic illness, so if you do know someone who suffers – reach out. Just having someone to unload too when it all gets a bit too much, can make a world of difference.
The impact on others
I have always considered myself a strong independent woman – but having a chronic illness has made me become completely dependent on my family. If I am struggling, or have a flare up they know exactly what to do and what I need to make the pain better. Poor David has had to make far to many hot water bottles in his lifetime and has had to put up with some rather epic mood-swings for when I’m in pain and frustrated with the world. The amount of money my family have had to spend on hospital car parks is ridiculous and while visits to hospitals aren’t as scary as they once were, they still worry and I hate that I am the cause of that worry.
For those with a chronic illness, it’s not just the person suffering, the impacts are on the family of that person too. Having to look after and worry about that person is a tough struggle that goes unrecognised.
The Smaller Issues…
Yep, after all that doom and gloom lets divert to the more light-hearted impacts that having a chronic illness has on my everyday life.
Clothing Very superficial I know, but with chronic pain in my tummy, it means I can’t wear any clothes that are tight around my midriff or stomach. I have one pair of jeans for cold days, but even then I walk around with the button undone. How I’d love to wear something high-waisted and sexy, but nope the pain is definitely not worth the gain.
Exercise Not so much of an issue as I never exercised in the first place, but going to the gym is even LESS attractive when you’re in pain. A hot water bottle and a tub of Ben&Jerries instead? YES please.
Adventures I’m an adventurous spirit and love exploring new places, however since being ill I have had to recognise my bodies limits. I can’t race around cities like I used to, squeezing in every possible landmark in sight. Now, my adventures are a lot slower in pace and need more rest stops. People watching is now a new hobby of mine.
Sleep Both lack of sleep and stress are two major factors that contribute to flare-ups for me, so I am very strict on my sleep schedule. I may be a complete bore – but that’s fine. I’d rather be a bore than have my body punish me for not getting a good solid 8 hours!
I hope you found this post insightful and useful. My goal is to spread awareness of the impacts suffering with from a chronic illness can have to help make it easier to understand for those who may not suffer. Reach out to the people in your lives and just be there for them, having a chronic illness can take it’s toll so having the right group of people in your corner can make such a difference.
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