I don’t remember being sick a lot as a child. Of course there are a few memories of lying around my grandparents’ house watching TV while I had the flu, and a handful of instances where I had a horrible headache or felt sick to my stomach and left school early. But by and large I didn’t catch very many ailments and certainly nothing unexplainable.
I got terrible colds in college, mostly due to proximity with other people, and one instance of an intestinal parasite courtesy of an overseas trip to Ireland, but I mostly escaped unscathed there too. Although to be fair I think that parasite was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. I actually felt like I was being eaten from the inside out and I lost ten pounds in two weeks. Not ideal.
All that said, this past year (and especially the last three months) have been hell for me. I don’t know if it’s my exposure to so many new things (new house, new job) or just more time on the subway, but it feels like I have been sick for a very long time.
In the last 13 months I have had the flu, strep throat, noro-virus, a chest infection brought on by allergies and asthma, and now what honestly feels like another intestinal parasite. I feel awful. All the time. And because I’m not really used to being sick, I feel completely helpless.
Although I do technically meet the requirements thrice-over for someone with pre-existing conditions (re: the Houses’ Trump-care bill), I’ve never considered myself chronically ill. And that’s because I’m lucky enough to be asymptomatic for a lot of things and generally in good health. But this past year has given me a tiny taste of what it would feel like to actually be chronically ill and I have to say, it takes more strength than I even guessed.
Physical strength aside (although mustering up the energy to do anything at all is hard), the emotional and mental repercussions of being chronically ill are no joke. It’s very upsetting to constantly have to turn people down when they ask if you want to spend time with them. It’s hard to cancel plans last minute without coming off as a flake or to explain to your employers how you aren’t feeling well again and need to see the doctor for another test instead of getting to work on time. And when you do finally get somewhere, it’s hard to politely excuse yourself when you suddenly feel way worse than when you walked in and need to go home.
The constant coughing from my chest infection has pulled several muscles in my body. They feel like they’re on fire every time I cough or move. But you know what? I miss being able to see my friends even more; their absence is painful too.
So to all the people out there who truly are living with a chronic illness, I salute your bravery and your strength. To do this all the time and not just temporarily…that’s something I can’t even begin to understand.