Warning: contains GIFs
It’s my 10 year high school reunion this weekend, which is a shitful time for anyone, let alone someone with a chronic illness. Just the thought of it acts as a reminder that my life is nowhere near where I thought it would be, or where I want it to be now.
I know, I know – no one ends up where they thought they would, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans, etc etc. But ending up in a different career than you chose in year 12 or not yet fulfilling your life’s ambitions is no comparison to having your life absolutely fucking decimated by chronic illness. I don’t think many adults experiencing a vague sense of ennui would trade it in for being incapacitated.
And to be honest, I’m really fucking tired of being made to feel like I should be grateful for how my life is now, as if being chronically ill is just another lifestyle choice, comparable to my peers who chose to study in Melbourne, or drop out of uni and work at the bank, or marry their high school sweethearts and have kids, or become heavy metal rockers/successful comedians/emigrants/master guitar craftsmen/foster parents/teachers/you get the drift.*
I don’t want to wake up and immediately feel the weight of my illness crushing my body. I don’t want to have to learn how to walk again every 6 months after my body forgets. I don’t want to have to worry if this will be the day I become bedbound again. And I really don’t want to spend most of my waking hours in so much pain that life, on the whole, isn’t a heap of fun for me right now.
It’s ok to admit you’re not ok, I reckon. Because if you’re honest with yourself, then you can also acknowledge the things that are good in your life.
I have realised my worth, and would no longer sit in mortified silence while classmates** told racist jokes and called me a dyke for having short hair. (Ugh, Warrnambool.)
I now know just how truly, horrifically terrible life can be (in some ways at least), which might seem a bad thing – but I believe it teaches empathy, and brings you closer to those who have experienced similar trauma. And although it has been a cruel lesson in some ways, I have learnt that love is an action, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by those will support me through bad times as well as good.
Best of all, I have found riches in the online chronic illness community. I’ve met people (predominantly young women) who are the strongest, most clever and determined people I know, and my life would be far worse off without them.
Above: watch Jen Brea’s TED talk if you want to know just how badass spoonies can be.
I may not have become a psychologist, an academic or nun (this is not a joke and I seriously considered it!), but I have become a strong person who has been through a lot of shit (both literally and metaphorically), who has been to the brink of death and back, and somehow always survived. And I don’t need a reunion to remind me of that.
*These are all real examples, just because I never fail to be amazed at how successful my peers have become. I really am happy for them.
**OK, just one.