The Fear…

Spoonie life comes with many challenges. There are the obvious constrictions. Then there’s the hidden toll. The less apparent complications that pack a punch. It’s those tricky unseen issues that I want to talk about.

A major component of my chronic illness is anxiety. I have mental health issues which include anxiety, but my physical difficulties bring their own particular stresses. There’s the guilt; a feeling that’s perpetually nestling in the background of my consciousness. Guilt over letting people down, asking for help, using resources or saying no too many times. I have a million things to feel guilty about and every one of them has it’s own additional worries. I feel huge anxiety about cancelling anything due to illness. I worry people will be angry, upset, left in the lurch. I analyse every response and feel certain someone is annoyed. I overthink every request for help. Surely I can get this done without inconveniencing others. Am I asking too much? Always, always I worry that I’m just not worth all the extra effort.

Unfulfilled potential offers me unlimited scope for guilt. I am sure that I have disappointed. There are expectations that I have not met. Chronic illness has interrupted or ruled out so many things. I know my limitations have impacted more than me. I am haunted by the moments I may robbed folk of. To not live up to the hopes of those you respect is crushing. Not reaching your own is no party either. On an existential level it feels negligent not to maximise one’s talents. I spend more time than is reasonable worrying about all the ways in which I have short changed society. I am ashamed of all the things I cannot do.

Orange light is sunset shining in to a dark room

Shame looms large. Intellectually I know I cannot control any of my health issues. However, I’m not always great at translating that knowledge into feelings. I’m embarrassed about how little I can get done during the bad times. I often feel less capable, less valuable, just less. I stress about the judgements that will be passed. It’s very humbling to be unable to keep on top of all the housework. Likewise to have a head like a bird’s nest because your body just won’t allow you to shower & do your hair. I cringe at needing help to stand up. Wince every time I have to explain why I’m ordering a taxi to take me round the corner. Each unproductive day is a dent in the ego. It’s hard to feel worthy when writing two paragraphs & heating soup are a whole day’s accomplishments.

Then, some days you’ll wake up and feel relatively good. That should be lovely, but so often it’s tainted. Coloured with more guilt. How dare I enjoy myself when I’m supposed to be sick. Imposter syndrome creeps in. I start to feel if I can manage doing this nice thing I should be able to handle everything else. I feel bad for feeling good and I’m scared. I fear that I’ll be judged on my good days. I’m terrified that everyone else is thinking I should do better. When folk see me having a couple of glasses of wine with a friend do they think I must be fine? If I succeed professionally I’m convinced everyone believes I’m faking it. It’s such a difficult juxtaposition to live with; feeling terrible for all the things one cannot do whilst also believing the things you can will be held against you.

Yellow road sign with text, I’m scared my good days will be used against me

Even writing this is giving me anxiety. Will this be perceived as whiny? Or as me making excuses for myself. It’s not intended to be either. I just want to have honest conversations. Large aspects of the disabled/chronically ill experience are never acknowledged. Too often we’re judged or dismissed without ever having been listened to.

All things must pass….

Last week I finally got an appointment with the pain specialist I have been waiting see. I had pinned my hopes on this Dr having some answers for me. He did. Unfortunately it wasn’t a diagnosis I wanted. 

My new consultant is convinced that I have Fibromyalgia.  As you may know I have been living with chronic illness for some time. I have a number of debilitating digestive tract issues. I also have problems maintaining a healthy haemoglobin level, which causes a raft of symptoms ranging from fatigue to angina attacks. Along with these known conditions I have increasingly had mystery symptoms. Pains with no definable cause, intensification of pain resulting from my health issues, continual sleep disturbance despite taking really quite strong sleeping pills, confusion , memory loss & needing to pee constantly. Add that to my existing physical symptoms & PTSD and you begin to get picture of what I’m dealing with. 

Pain in particular has been taking over my life. It limits almost everything. I can’t make plans, my social life has contracted & working outside the home is impossible. Even keeping up with housework is a mammoth task. I needed help. I was clinging to the idea that someone would find a problem that could be fixed. That I’d be offered surgery or medication of some crazy treatment, at the end of which I would reclaim some of my life. I knew that my diagnosed problems wouldn’t go away, but I held out hope that these newer cryptic concerns would be cured. Sadly, that is not to be. 

There is some relief in having someone say this is what’s wrong with you. I am glad not to have been patronised or had my mental health blamed again. I just wish the outlook was a bit sunnier. Since Thursday I have been adjusting to the fact that my pain is never going away. My current condition is likely to be my continuous one. I’ve had to read up on fibromyalgia & prepare myself for all it may mean. I have also been confronted with the new knowledge that pregnancy, which was never going to be straightforward is hugely impacted by fibro. This has been a big blow. I’ve wanted to be pregnant for a very long time. Knowing that I will most likely struggle to enjoy the experience is a punch in the gut. 

So, accepting this new diagnosis is a process. However, I am by no means defeated. I will start a new medication tomorrow. It’s likely to be a rough ride as it is harsh on the stomach, but the pain relief it can offer is worth trying for. I’ve already been referred to various groups & medical professionals. I’m doing my own research; I am open to anything. Expect to join me on a journey of experimentation with pain management techniques. 

I refuse to be beaten by this. Which is not to say I won’t bitch or wallow sometimes. I’m not superwoman. I accept my body will always place limitations on me. I also acknowledge that I am nowhere near to being at peace with that. I’m angry and sad, but not defeated. I have a very clear picture of the things I need to be happy. It’s just a case of working out how to achieve them within the confines of my illness. Let’s face it, I’ve been playing with a bad hand for a while, but I can bluff my way to a win.