A young woman's blatantly honest, brief, and accessible account of life with chronic illness.
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When Chronic Illness Makes Me Feel Worthless
There are days when I feel absolutely worthless. Days where I contemplate the reality of my life, and seemingly everything comes up short.
Let’s go through the list of disappointments, shall we?I am a 21 year old 3-time college drop out.I have maybe one semester of college completed, and most of those units come from AP classes I took in high school.I haven’t had a job in 3 years.The only job I’ve ever had was dressing up as a princess for kids birthday parties so my overall work experience is lacking.Last summer I tried dogsitting for two weeks and I got so insanely sick from it that my parents had to take over because I collapsed in my cousin’s driveway and literally couldn’t move for 3 days. I have zero income. I applied for Disability benefits and was denied because I never held a job that paid into social security.Isn’t it dumb that I can’t work due to being disabled and I can’t get Disability because I haven’t worked?I haven’t driven for 7 months.I volunteered at a hospital last year, was given the easiest job they had (my coworkers were over 90 years old), only worked one day per week for 4 hours just sitting in a chair, and STILL didn’t even last 3 months.I haven’t been able to work a volunteer shift in 6 months.
In a weird way it seems like I peaked in high school, and not for the normal reasons.I wasn’t popular, I didn’t do sports, barely did any extracurriculars at all, but my 4.3 high school GPA is glaring me in the face.I was so on top of my shit in high school.I was objectively someone my family could be proud of.
The cold hard facts of my lack of post-high school achievements unfortunately speak for themselves.However, I need to remind myself of some other facts.3 years ago I became bedbound for a year and a half.I was unable to stand for 10 seconds without passing out.Despite this, I completed 3 online college courses.While my peers were tackling college, I was in 24/7 pain, unable to walk, searching for diagnoses.Throughout all of this I never gave up hope.Despite my pain I bravely attempted going back to school, finding work, and volunteering.Even though I failed at these things, I respect myself for having the guts to even attempt them. I began baking, which I never ever thought I would do since I’ve always been afraid of the oven.I fearlessly went through medical procedures that would have given high school me a panic attack. I fucking relearned how to walk.I fought for better doctors, better testing, and better treatments.My fighting paid off because I now have 7 diagnoses, after so many years of uncertainty.I began writing and got an article published.I went from hiding my illnesses and disabilities to being proud of them and sharing my story and experience with anyone who will listen.
Most importantly, I found strength I never knew I had, and despite my feelings of worthlessness, that strength will always be there, and will always pull me through.
No man is an island... unless that man is chronically ill. Chronic illness makes islands of all its victims.
Y'know that feeling everyone has as a teenager? That "no one understands me" feeling. Take that and multiply it by a million and that's chronic illness. At least when dealing with teenagers, people have a point of reference, since they were once teenaged themselves. The same can't be said about chronic illness. With chronic illness you don't get it 'til you literally get it.
I'm going to be honest here, I don't know how to cope with the loneliness that accompanies chronic illness. It is so gut-wrenching and all-encompassing. It's not just the literal state of being alone, either. Along with the physical solitude comes the mental. I could be in a room full of people and still feel utterly and hopelessly alone, because everyone in the room is able to function so seamlessly while I'm trapped in a cage of my unreliable body…
Being disabled and being friends with able bodied people is way harder than anyone realizes.We’re constantly being left behind and overlooked. As they move forward in their lives, we have to sit back and watch them go.No one wants to admit it, but it gets really hard to be happy for them after a while.They graduate college, awesome!we’re stuck in bed in pain.They get their dream job, great!We’re stuck in bed in pain.They get married, nice!We’re stuck in bed in pain.They drift further away the more they accomplish.It’s only natural.They get busy and they get tired of hearing about your doctors appointments.They stop asking how you’re doing because they know it’ll be the same answer as always.Then suddenly the things they complain about make you roll your eyes.The occasional headache, an annoying coworker, a pulled muscle, their husband snores… but they have their health, and they’re taking it for granted.It’s infuriating. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s heartbreaking.We are losing them.