Living with Invisible Chronic Illness is Like Running Through Porridge
There’s always hope when coping with the realities of invisible chronic illness and pain
I’m sure we’ve all had the dream, or a variation of, where we are trying to run away from something or someone chasing us. No matter how hard we concentrate on trying to escape or catch the other person, it seems our efforts are futile. We try to make our legs move faster only to have them move in slow motion. It’s as if we are running through a giant vat of porridge and can’t get anywhere.
I’m going to approach living with invisible chronic illness and pain from this perspective and use two different viewpoints. One viewpoint will be from the actual person suffering from chronic illness and pain and the other will be from a care-giver perspective.
We all know that trying to gain traction in the ever-changing landscape that is our society is a monumental task at best. Trying to get ahead in life is pretty much a ‘survival of the fittest’ contest in many ways. Can you imagine wanting so badly to realize your dreams and goals you’ve set for your life only to have them just out of reach? Imagine running after someone, trying to catch them, and they’re just ahead of you. You’re wanting so badly to catch them but, just as you think you’ve caught up and the tips of your fingers snag the back of their shirt, they speed up just a little more. After repeating this exercise, eventually one will simply lose the will to catch the person, realize the futility and accept defeat – as much as they didn’t want to.
In many ways, this is what it’s like living as a person with invisible chronic illness and pain. One has goals and dreams for their life that they so badly want to accomplish – so desperately want to do. It could be a type of job, a new hobby or even having a family. It could even be something so simple as cleaning the house. Living with chronic pain and illness steals this luxury away from a person. No matter how badly they want to be able to apply for that perfect job, learn a new hobby or think of having a family, their body simply won’t allow it. Simple things like getting up to answer the phone or using the washroom are monumental tasks. Each decision has to be predicated by “Should I do this?” and pushes the realization of that goal or dream just out of reach.
Now imagine you’re a husband and your wife has been living with chronic illness and pain. Unless you’re completely heartless and void of a soul, you’re wanting to help in every way possible. You would gladly take all the pain on yourself to let your wife glimpse a glimmer of hope for the future. You so badly want to be able to say everything will be fine, but the reality is you don’t know. You also have goals and dreams for your life and your family. Unfortunately, these dreams didn’t take into consideration a chronically ill mother and wife. Now, these goals you’ve had for yourself and family also seem out of reach because, no matter what you do, you can’t escape it. Simple things like going for a walk around the block take planning, and going for a hike in the woods is out of the question. Again, no matter how far ahead you want to get, you feel like you’re being pulled backwards.
I’d like to encourage both sides of the story – the sufferer and the suffer-ee – to hold on to hope. As a person of faith who is 100% convinced that God is in control, there is a reason for the suffering. Life is a journey and I’ve yet to see a journey that only moves in a straight line. Your trip will turn to the left, turn to the right and perhaps even move in reverse when we encounter a herd of cattle blocking our way. Just like life, there are things that come into our paths that we can’t control, but we can appreciate that they will make our journey more interesting.