This week (26th September – 2nd October) is Invisible Illness Awareness Week 2016.
It’s a way for the many people living with a chronic or invisible illness to increase awareness and start conversations about how this affects us in our daily lives.
The theme this year from the event organiser is to tell a part of our story that no one would think about when they hear the words ‘Chronic Illness.’
I knew immediately what I wanted to write about.
I kept coming back to the same theme: There are two sides.
There are two sides to every argument, a coin, a face…and chronic illness.
This is Chronic Illness: Badness and Blessings.
It’s not an easy topic to write about. Sometimes the mere mention of anything remotely good, let alone a blessing, in association with the term ‘chronic illness’ is enough to rain fire down on the messenger.
Everyone’s experiences are different. How we choose to interpret, react, perceive and process our experiences is different.
And that is ok.
We don’t all have to agree. But I do ask that we respect the views of others and be kind.
So here we are. This is Chronic Illness: Badness and Blessings.
We know all about the Badness.
It is bad with capitals, exclamation marks, bold text and accompanying swear words.
This is Chronic Illness: F%#&ing BAD!!! *Bleep bleep*
Bad comes with chronic illness territory; a territory that is littered with a seemingly endless stream of medical tests, procedures, needles, drugs, hospitals, doctors, diagnosis, more diagnosis, chronic pain, grief, struggles, daily Mt Everest’s to conquer for the most basic of tasks, etc. etc.
I don’t need to continue. You get it.
‘Bad’ is why I’ve taken an unscheduled leave of absence from this blog in recent weeks. I had a major procedure and it’s had me lying low. Cue the comfy couch and binge-watching my favourite TV series. (Not Grey’s Anatomy, I’m all caught up there; the focus this time has been The Unit and Hawaii Five-0. *Swoon* on Aussie actor Alex O’Loughlin).
I’m only now starting to feel slightly human again. I’ve moved from all-day TV watching to attempting to cultivate my thoughts into a sensical (still not an “official” word in the English language, I’m asking why?) enough form to honour Invisible Illness Week 2016.
Digressing Bree, digressing.
What it boils down to is this: Bad is a constant force that is either always present or at the very least, simmering under the surface when it comes to chronic illness.
But I don’t want to give it any more attention in this particular post. The badness already gets sooooooo much attention.
I want to talk about some of the blessings I have experienced from living with chronic illness.
Because yes, they really do exist.
Loving myself is the most vital tool in my healing toolkit.
I *heart* this quote from Drew Barrymore, as it really epitomises the perspective, and ultimate respect, that I gained for my body after illness:
“My limbs work, so I’m not going to complain about the way my body is shaped.”
I have a very different attitude towards my body now than I did in my younger years, where perceived body imperfections and the never-ending comparison game dominated a lot of my time and energy.
When I think back to the days where I used to stand in front of the mirror, picking on the littlest things – those bothersome body woes of “my thighs are too big, my belly isn’t flat enough, her arms are more slender than mine” – it makes me sad.
Comparisons like these are harmful to our health and sense of worth. And it’s so hard, because from the time we are little girls, we are fed unrealistic ideas and images of ‘physical perfection’ through the media and pop culture. Listening to all these voices, our own included, has warped our sense of self.
Now I concentrate on the way being healthy makes me feel and what it gives me.
To quote Henry David Thoreau:
“I stand in awe of my body.”
Yes, even when said body is attacking itself (aka me) and killing things that I’d really prefer it didn’t. It’s just a tad confused, poor love.
Body: Something is wrong.
Me: Oh no, not again. I swear everything is fine.
Body: Something is seriously wrong and I’m going to kill it. With fire.
Me: Please don’t.
Body, as it attacks itself: I’m killing it! Aren’t you proud of me?”
I am amazing. You are amazing. We are amazing.
I know myself more.
I was talking to a good friend about this the other day.
I’ve always been into self-development, self-empowerment and the like, so this possibly would have happened anyway, but chronic illness certainly accelerated the timeframes.
I’m a very different person to who I was pre-illness.
I’m softer, both physically – less exercise, lol! – and in personality. Less of a hard arse as my Mum would say!
I know who I am and where I want to go. What is truly important to me.
I’m more self-aware and less self-centred.
“Even though you can’t remember what it feels like to live inside a body that works ‘properly,’ without physical pain or fatigue, I’ve never seen you so vibrant, so alive, as you are right now. There is a peace that radiates from deep within that wasn’t present in your early years. Whilst it’s true that you would quite happily ‘return to sender’ the physical ailments that continue to be your nemesis, the life lessons, connections, love and deep sense of self that you have discovered along your journey – those you wouldn’t trade.”
~ Bree Hogan, ‘You Could Never Have Imagined…(A Letter to Self)’
I have much to be grateful for.
I know right, totally trippy, but totally true. I dedicated an entire article to gratitude and chronic illness because I was so floored by my own revelation.
Pollyanna has no place here. It’s not about putting on rose-coloured glasses and pretending that life is full of fairy dust and prancing unicorns shitting rainbows that sparkle and shimmer.
It’s a way to shift focus. A way to take charge over that which I (you) still have power – thoughts, attitude, approach to life – to create a sense of wellbeing that has the ability to transcend the iron hold of chronic illness.
In order to heal, I must feel.
Poetry in action. Who would’ve thought.
I’m where I am today, I’m the person I am today, because of the choices I’ve made and what I’ve experienced, good and bad.
I can’t change the past but I can change how I feel about myself right now.
I have a say in what I do with my feelings, my thoughts, my attitude.
It may be difficult to see, but it’s always there.
There will be days when I feel sad, angry, hurt, grief, to wallow in the unfairness of it all.
There will be days when I feel happy, gratitude, uplifted and a total majestic bad ass.
But I always have a choice. That’s power right there.
“You’ve been handed the exact cards you need in your life to learn, grow and heal. It’s not to say those crappy cards don’t straight-up stink. Often times they do. You can’t always change the cards you were dealt but you can change the way you play the game.”
~ Dr. Deborah Cardell, Huffington Post, ‘7 Ways Your Chronic Disease Benefits You.’
A Kinder Surprise. Remember those? “A surprise and game in every egg!”
You never know what you’re going to get.
Chronic illness is no different.
Two sides to a coin. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark. Badness and Blessings.
This is Chronic Illness.
Now it’s your turn! What is something you want someone else to know about you and your chronic illness? Comment below!
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Please support Invisible Illness Awareness Week 2016 (September 26th – October 2nd) by sharing this post using the hashtags #ThisIsChronicIllness and #InvisibleIllness.Thank you!
Photo Credit: Pixabay
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