When I attended the Endometriosis UK info day. I was struck by how universally chronic illness had impacted the lives of so many people. Both women and men, families and friends from all racial and social backgrounds.
I found this again when I attended a local support group for people affected by Fibromyalgia and CFS/ME.
In fact chronic illness was was the common thread that had brought all of us together. In many ways this is a positive aspect of illness that is frequently overlooked. Chronic illness puts people on the same page. You could have nothing else in common with a person, live in opposite sides of the country or come from vastly different backgrounds and still have one very strong defining trait in common.
Chronic illness brings many different people all ages and economic backgrounds. Illness gives all it blights a collective strength. Crucially it’s made me want to know everything I can, not just about my chronic illness, but about everyone’s. We stand a better chance of raising awareness of illness collectively rather than alone.
Illness is a great equaliser
Somehow it’s become harder in our face-paced and technology led world to open up and know the people around you. Go abroad to other countries and everyone greets one other (be it stranger or friend) rather than wondering who they are and keeping their head down.
I can note a great deal of negative things about chronic illness, but one of its positives is how easily it equips us with collective empathy, it takes all of us back to a more innocent time when thinking about someone else we didn’t know was a given.
Those that are chronically ill are among the nicest and most patient people I’ve met. We have more to deal with than the average person, we notice the little efforts from another. They appreciate and treasure time and energy in a way not many others do.
Despite our illness we appreciate life infinitely. It’s a great contradiction I know, but illness is a great equaliser, a universal human experience, something that we all experience at one point in our lives. We just experience it for much longer than everyone else, and as such those of us who are chronically ill understand each other on a wavelength that few others can.
Between us we’ve mellowed with the wisdom that comes with illness. Or rather we’ve come to accept who we are even if others around us aren’t always able to. We learn to stay calm when others complain about very little we save our honest answer for how are you? for those that want to know.
Above all we dig deep every single minute of every single day just to cope with chronic pain and chronic fatigue, and the myriad of other problems that like throws our way. Be it regular illness or just having to work.
I personally see illness as a strength rather than a failing. I can evidence this by how much harder I have to work compared to others. Not just with my job, but with walking, travelling, eating, sleeping. The very things that should be near effortless to anyone else are careful, and well-thought through actions for me.
In my case there was no escaping this illness, so I have simply looked at what I can successfully enjoy rather than what I am unable to do. I try to see the good things in what others can perceive to be a pitiful situation.
I work hard to make sure that I do not sink into the hole of living with invisible illness, that those around me are aware of my situation and treat me like a human being rather than a fragile object.
Illness diminishes our health and our quality of life, but I find it’s a profound (and difficult) method to live your life by. To stay positive and appreciative above all else.
Anyone can become ill
One thing that the last four years of chronic illness has taught me is that illness can and does come to anyone at some point. There’s no avoiding it. Chronic illness will grace you at any age, at any circumstance, and any point in life. Often there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it (using endometriosis as example). Illness often isn’t identifiable as something with a name right away, but it does (for better or worse) go on to become part of who we are.
Many of us are sick for many years before we get the definition of what’s wrong with us. We’ve known something with us wrong for a very long time.
However it’s really important that we stand up and talk openly about our experiencing of becoming ill and living with endometriosis and any other chronic disease. We can either embrace what we have left to enjoy in our lives, or we can destroy ourselves with what might have been.
Illness is about acceptance. Acceptance of what has happened to us. Acceptance that others are going through the same thin regardless of background. Acceptance that we can do more together than alone.