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Have you found yourself fighting a battle that you felt that you were never going to win? Have you ever found yourself trying to train your brain to reject pain that human beings are normally unable to tolerate? Have you found yourself learning to cope with your illness, instead of getting rid of it? That, my friends, is what it is like having a chronic illness.
Chronic illness is literally that pest that never goes away. There’s treatment, but no cure. We’ll know the symptoms, but will never fully understand the root problem. Our definition of normalcy is abnormality to the rest of the world. While there are people all over the world just like us, our journeys are all different. It literally is this emotionally, physically, socially, mentally, spiritually draining roller-coaster, never-ending journey that everyone seems to think they know about, but no one truly understands. We’re essentially functioning in a world that others will consider dysfunction.
If you do not have a chronic illness, then I can guarantee you that you have a friend, family, coworker, or loved one who suffers from some kind of chronic illness. I will dedicate another post specifically to those who suffer from chronic illness, but this post is for those who don’t have it. To the mom, dad, sister, brother, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, coworker, or friend of someone who suffers from chronic illness, allow me to share five things that we need you to know.
1. You will never understand what it’s like to walk in our shoes.
We appreciate it when you say you “understand how we feel”. We understand it is with good intentions. Unfortunately, the truth is, you don’t understand the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual strain that comes with having this chronic illness. For many chronic illnesses, we can barely understand the exact pain and feelings of another that suffers from the same or similar illness that we do. Unfortunately, oftentimes, empathy can sometimes become a gateway to telling us how we should feel, or comparing us to those who are suffering more than us. We’ve accepted that our pain won’t be understood. Sometimes it’s good to validate that we have the right to feel as we do as a result of our chronic illness.
2. Homemade remedies are not enough to completely fix our issue.
It most likely won’t ever go away. Some of us have symptoms, but have no diagnosis for the root of our symptoms. Many of us have probably tried every type of medication and remedy out there with no resolution. Our pain is deeper than the fixes that many people think are quite simple.
3. Pray for our strength to endure.
As I’d previously mentioned, the fact that we have a chronic illness means that we’re either going to be on our journey for quite some time, if not the rest of our lives. Many of us have to accept the fact that we may never find the root cause or a permanent cure for our illness. We appreciate you hoping that the illness goes away but our reality is that it most likely won’t. Instead of giving us false hope, encourage our strength and resilience. Pray that we can still do great regardless of how our chronic illness tries to limit us.
4. You do not get to dictate how we cope.
Having several forms of chronic illness, I’ve spoken to people with rather strong personalities pass on their strong (sometimes unsolicited) opinions or judgments as to how I should seek treatment, how I should feel, or how I should cope. While your insight is valuable, your support means a whole world of a lot more, even when you may not agree with how we intend to seek treatment. Remember, every decision we make regarding our chronic illness consumes our emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical being. We do not want to feel alone on the journey.
5. Don’t take it personal
I have mentioned before, having chronic illness takes an emotional, spiritual, and psychological toll on us. We are sometimes going to be cranky and angry. We sometimes will want to be alone to process what we’re going through. Sometimes that might include not wanting to speak to those around us to process or cope. We appreciate, value, and need, your love and support. Trust, it means a lot. So please don’t give up on us, or get frustrated, or take it personally when we need these moments. It sometimes is part of our process, and that’s okay.
Overall, we thank you for loving us through our journey. Having a chronic illness, it’s a constant, and daily, battle for us to not only cope, but learn how to allow our family, loved ones, and friends to love us through it all. It surely is this ongoing battle we feel we may never win. Just remember that we are human beings going through a difficult, yet human, thing and we need the compassion and support to cope with our chronic illness day to day.
A Chronic Illness Warrior