Thought Catalog
August 1, 2014

What It’s Really Like To Be Chronically Ill

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Society’s recent obsession with cancer stories and movies like The Fault in Our Stars made me realize that the average person doesn’t know what it’s really like to be sick. Chronically sick. What it’s like to wake up every morning and know you’re never going to get better. No amount of medicine, doctors, surgeries, and procedures can fix you.

I think the reason why people today love to hear about cancer stories is because they are just that. They are stories. They have a beginning, middle, and an end. While that end may not be a happy one, people are satisfied with closure. But my story doesn’t have an end. And people don’t seem to like stories without an ending.

Being sick isn’t as glamorous as they make it out to be in the movies. And unlike cancer perks, there are no “chronic illness perks.” Except maybe those really good lollipops at the doctor’s office. Those are definitely a perk.

The worst part about being chronically sick isn’t the physical pain, it’s the emotional pain that goes along with it. You reach a point where you can’t hold back the tears any longer and suddenly you’re breaking down in the middle of a doctor’s office. You think you can escape the emotional torture; your disease is purely physical, right?

The worst part is that there is no escape. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no happy ending. There is no way to make the incurable go away. We learn to tolerate the physical pain. You have to. But it’s the overwhelming emotional burden that makes you feel like someone is holding your head down in the water. You can fight it, but you can never overcome that crushing feeling. How are you supposed to get rid of an emotional suffocation when the source of it is never going to go away?

Being sick is being stuck in the eternal clutch of the unknown. Any day anything could go wrong, or at least more wrong than it already has. It’s so hard not to feel anxious or depressed or completely lost when all that lies ahead is a giant question mark. You rarely seem to get answers when you are sick. And when you do, they’re often the answers you wish you hadn’t heard any way.

There’s one thing every single sick person wishes for, but rarely gets. Hope. Hope that one day things will get better. Hope that there will finally be a day when your pain is a zero on that silly little scale. Hope that one day you’ll get a glimpse of normal.

I know technically being sick means my genes suck or my body just plain hates me, but somehow being sick has made me better. I may be biased, but I think that sick people — especially young sick people — are some of the best people you will ever meet. Now don’t get me wrong, healthy people are great too. But when you’re sick, you understand things that other people might take for granted.

You learn to love every good second, every good minute, of any of those few good days you might have. You don’t fear death because you’ve already stared it straight in the face quite a few times. You know it’s not important to dwell on the little things. You have more important things to worry about.

So as many times as I’ve wished to be normal for even just a day, I’ve appreciated my life, both the good and the bad, so much more as a chronically ill young person that I ever could have as a regular teenager.

Being sick makes you strong. Being sick makes you weak. Being sick gives you insight and knowledge about life as it eats away at your own. Being sick is the greatest blessing in disguise. It is so much more than just having an illness. It’s having your entire life be taken out of your control, and fighting to get it back. And that fight will never end. TC mark

featured image – The Fault In Our Stars