If you're reasonably healthy, please take a moment to realize just how wonderful a gift that is. Because really, it IS a gift.
I am not reasonably healthy. I maybe have one or two days a week where I feel really good. The other days I may feel decent, but not great. More often than not, I teeter between a good and bad day. I can feel great in the morning and lousy in the afternoon or vice versa.
And then once every few weeks, I get hit with a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis, or my headache gets out of control and turns into a migraine, or I wake up with nausea and weak limbs and can barely get out of bed (like this morning), or I am hit with such exhaustion that I can barely keep my eyes open, let alone work.
Let's just say that I never, and I mean never, have any leftover vacation/sick days every year. In fact, I often have to take unpaid leave. I'm incredibly grateful that my company offers sick leave because I'm one of those people who desperately needs it.
Some days, like today, it really gets to me, though. I'm home from work and that just irritates me. Every morning, I gauge how I feel - do I feel good enough to go, or bad enough to stay home? Most of the time, I go because I was raised to 'be tough' and 'work through it.' (That's the Midwestern farm work ethic in me). But when I can't hack it,I feel guilty for staying home, even when I know that there's no way I could make it through 8 hours of work.
I hate to disappoint people. I hate to have other people do my work. I hate that my being gone is an inconvenience to them. I hate how it looks - like I'm a slacker. (For the record, I don't think any of my co-workers think this - they have watched me wrestle with my myriad health problems). But I feel like a slacker when I don't go. So on top of feeling physically lousy, I feel mentally lousy because I beat myself up for missing work. Not exactly the best combination.
I'm working on accepting that I am not a healthy person. I'm learning to deal with my limitations. And I'm trying to be kind to myself.
But it's hard.
I'm usually positive in my posts, but sometimes, I gotta get real - and this is my reality. People who enjoy good health may not understand, but those who don't, will (I hope) understand.
So let me just put it all out there: I'm a chronically ill person. I have several issues (rheumatoid arthritis being the latest). I don't want to tell you how many times a year I go to the doctor. I don't want to show you the huge stacks of doctors' bills. Yes, I have tried to get well. Yes, I have tried alternative and modern approaches. No, I'm not lazy. No, I'm not a hypochondriac. No, it's not all "in my head." It's real and it sucks.
But this is the life I have, and despite all of this, it is a good life. I have so many blessings that I can't possibly count them all. An understanding, loving husband and daughter. Terrific family and friends. My writing. And so, so many more.
That is what I try to focus on, but on some days, like today, I feel the need to vent. Normally I would do this in my personal journal, but my hope today is that I can shed some light on living with chronic illness for those who don't know about it. That's why I'm making this post public. In our hyper-work-saturated culture, where putting in overtime and working ourselves to exhaustion is the expected norm, I have to accept the fact that my body will literally not allow me to do it. It just won't.
And you know what? That's okay. It really is. I just have to convince myself that it's okay. Acceptance sometimes is far harder than dealing with illness itself.
But I'm trying.
And one day, I'll get there.