Understanding Chronic Illness

Last updated: March 2019

Being chronically ill, I know many people do not understand the term or what it is like. So, I decided to take the definitions and my personal experience to try and show what it is like. I am not writing this for pity or the attention of it all. I write this with hope that everyone can understand what it is like.

What does it mean to have a chronic illness?

According to USLegal.com, "chronically ill means a situation where a person is unable to perform at least two activities of daily living such as eating, toileting, transferring, bathing and dressing, or requires considerable supervision to protect from crisis relating to health and safety due to severe impairment concerning mind, or having a level of disability similar to that determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services." That is the legal term anyway. According to healthline.com the medical term is, "A chronic illness is one that lasts for a long period of time and typically cannot be cured." All in all, both explain all around what a chronic illness is.

Constantly worrying about the next flare

Living with a chronic illness is hard. It is dealing with pain everyday, always worrying about when your next flare up is going to happen, always needing your supplies in case of a flare up, having to cancel plans countless times, missing work and/or school all the time, the stigma, the countless medications and doctors, and of course the judgement and misunderstanding. What people do not understand is it is more than just the underlying illness. Chronically ill people tend to have more than just one chronic illness, they like to come in packs. Most people I know, along with myself, have multiple.

The nonstop cycle of pain

One thing that people do not realize with chronic pain is all it does is cause more pain. The more you rest the more your body can ache and you can not do anything else because of the pain. The more you do, the longer you are suffering afterwards, recovering from doing too much. It is a cycle of pain that is never ending. If anything having a chronic illness can also affect your mood; depression is more likely when you have chronic pain. How can you not be down when you are in pain everyday?

Invisible illnesses and stigma

Stigma. The Institute for Chronic Pain explains "Stigma occurs when someone is judged for having a condition that they didn't choose to have, like chronic pain." The stigma for chronic pain is devastating. Many ableists do not understand that they are invisible illnesses, since they can not see the pain, fatigue, psychological problems, and more.

I have lost track of how many times I have not been taken seriously or have been judged for not being able to do things that people without a chronic illness can do. People who are chronically ill are at a higher risk of having a mental illness than most other illnesses. One in ten suicides are linked to chronic illnesses, young people with a chronic illness are 28% more likely the commit suicide. Stigma might seem like it is not a big problem from the outside, but the truth is, it is and the facts are scary. No one realizes that until they are shown the numbers or given a reason to care.

My point is, with all of these things, being chronically ill is hard enough we do not deserve to be treated like we do not matter on top of it all. I know people can not even begin to imagine or do not care to but, please do not judge us, we can not control it. All we ask is for a little understanding, because ironically we are not that different than you.

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