It’s easier for you to be ill, you’re ill all the time

It’s time to bust some more chronic illness myths!

I’ve heard this statement from a couple of people now, troublingly from two people I know quite well.

It always comes when talking to me about someone else who is suffering with an acute illness, or someone who has a long term illness that doesn’t present itself as often as mine.

The very idea that I am somehow better prepared for illness because I am ill every day is a tiny bit patronising. It’s as if someone means that because I live with illness every day I am more “deserving” of it as I am more used to its presence in my life.

No way, not by a long shot.

Unravelling the argument

I guess the idea behind this sentiment is that someone else has longer periods of time between illness and therefore is less equipped when illness makes an appearance.

Well thanks, by implying that someone’s also implying that it’s easier to live with an illness all of the time, as if several months between illnesses blight is a more much horrible scenario.

When I challenge one person about this view they were adamant that this was the case. So on a personal note I’d rather be blighted with illness once every six months than every day. Sign me up for that option if it exists please!

The person I disagreed with argued that this person with a permanent, but more intermittent illness than mine had more time to adjust to being normal, making the time they were unwell even harder.

There’s just a few problems with that extremely simplified view of chronic illness.

I get ill with other things too

Having one condition doesn’t absolve us from regular illness. Many of us have impaired immune systems due to years of illness weighing down on our bodies. I don’t mind telling you that I am at my most miserable when I have additional illness to deal with on top of my regular day-to-day one.

If that wasn’t lovely enough people with chronic conditions are far more likely to develop more than one chronic condition in addition. That’s a particularly hard pill to swallow.

It’s not fair to compare two different illnesses to one another

Although a lot of long-term illnesses share a great deal in common, they are also very different and have different impacts on the individual. The person I’ve mentioned in my example above might be extremely depressed about having attacks of chronic illness twice a year. I’d be ecstatic for that health to illness ratio. I could work with those odds far better than the ones I have.

That’s neither here nor there though. It’s pointless to compare differing circumstances, it’s akin to thinking “what if I wasn’t ill anymore?” or what “what if I could give my illness away to someone else for a bit?”.

It sounds like this other person who’s chronically ill hasn’t accepted their illness yet as I have. So that’s the biggest difference between us.

Having a chronic illness is a full-time job

If I make this look easy, it’s because I work extremely hard to keep my illness at bay. Every morning, every work day and every bit of free time is a careful exercise in energy and pain management.

A little work here, a little rest there. Something to eat. Tiny careful, calculated steps of work. Making my life look to simple is a complicated exercise of balance and caution, planning and goal management. I can’t simply live anymore. I strive to live for just some of the quality of life that others take for granted.

I rarely get a break

So some people are touched by illness infrequently. The same is the same for me and healthiness. On the plus side, because of all the added care I have to take of my body to encourage it to work with me, I am much healthier than most people when it comes to diet, exercise and and care. Even with my endometriosis factored into that analysis.

So I really appreciate the small moments of respite I get from illness. The quiet hours where the background noise of pain ambles away. The day or two of pain-free days that flitter and float toward me with increasing frequency. The sublime moments than fatigue leaves me and I feel fantastic. I enjoy these moments as best I can. However even they are carefully enjoyed as doing as much as I did before I got sick always threatens to fling me back into the past by several days, back into agony.

So no, in short, I don’t think any one person who is chronically ill has a better deal than anyone else. We all find it difficult, and we all continue to muddle through in our own way.

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My name is Michelle and I've been living and working with endometriosis since diagnosis in 2010.

I hope to provide some hope for this illness through practical advice and discussion of this awful disease.

My other sites

Pioneer Project - Video games, UX and sustainability