3 things a stomach bug taught me about chronic illness

This week I was sick. Not chronically sick. Not even break-your-leg sick or appendicitis-need-operation sick. Merely stomach bug sick.

Uncomfortable, rather depressing, but half a week later and I was over it and back at work.
But something had changed.
While I was unwell I learned three very important truths about chronic illness – and I don’t want to ever forget them.

3 things I learnt about being chronically ill

1. Chronic illness means you are ill.

Don’t get me wrong, I never thought it was a walk in the park.

All my life my mum has battled various autoimmune diseases, and in the past few years I’ve watched my younger sister go through many similar struggles. I know personally how chronic illness can drain families, disrupt lives and sabotage futures.

But there’s nothing like being sick yourself to remember that the act of being sick in itself is awful.

It’s not just about the consequences or the collateral damage.

The minute-by-minute pains and nausea, the feelings of exhaustion, the frustration and the helplessness – it’s a horrible thing to experience.

I never want to forget that chronic illness means you are sick, and being sick is awful.

Continue reading “3 things a stomach bug taught me about chronic illness”

The problem with chronic illness and social media

Sharing about chronic illness on social media: It’s difficult.
Particularly when you are only watching someone else’s battle.

That I believe this might come as a surprise, due to the slight fact that this website is full of articles!

Not to mention, I have associated facebook pages, groups, pinterest, google plus and twitter accounts! That’s a lot of social media.

Yet each time I share about the place of chronic illness in my life (as someone who has sick family members, but is not ill myself), I struggle.

It’s a hard topic to think and talk about – let alone share online with everyone and anyone!

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Thinking about chronic illness: Why I find it hard to think about sickness and Watching

It is hard to think about chronic illness.

The reality is that while chronic illness can be difficult to talk about – it can also be difficult to even think about.

This post is a follow-on from the previous post: “Why I find it hard to talk about Watching”.

Let me clarify: I don’t find thinking about chronic illness a chore or a burden. It is so much part of me and my reality that not to think about it would be a denial of the truth!

I actually really enjoy pondering this part of my life because I want to understand how it fits into God’s plan for our world and how I can love and support my struggling friends.

Perhaps ‘hard’ is the wrong word. I don’t find thinking about Watching hard, but I think it can be… dangerous.
Continue reading “Thinking about chronic illness: Why I find it hard to think about sickness and Watching”

Talking about chronic illness: Why I find it hard to talk about Sickness and Watching

I find it hard to talk about sickness when I’m not the one who is sick.

This might come as a surprise.

After all, I blog about Watching. I’ve written thousands of words on the topic, and spent hundreds of hours thinking about it.

But I still find it hard.

Talking about sickness is hard because words diminish

I really struggle with this.

Every time I open a word document or begin a conversation with someone about a heart issue, I get a familiar ‘tugging’ feeling. It’s sort of like regret.

Because when words express our thoughts and feelings they inevitably reduce them. I love words, but words are not everything. Words only scrape the surface of the huge beast that being is.
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Help! People keep asking after my chronically sick family member…

“… and there’s nothing left to say.”

Chronic illness is…well, chronic. For the most part, not only does it not end, but it remains the same.

Of course there are changes, developments, progressions – but these are generally subtle in nature and may vary between individuals.

Perhaps our Loved One is slowly but surely declining.

Or maybe their sickness fluctuates without rhyme or reason. Some days they are well, others they are not.

Or perhaps there is simply no visible change at all, just a long, monotonous pain.
Continue reading “Help! People keep asking after my chronically sick family member…”

4 reasons admitting we are sad is not that easy

I find it quite difficult to respond to: ‘How are you?’
With, ‘Sad.’
It doesn’t seem like an appropriate answer.

It seems a bit silly to even have to say this, but when a Loved One is diagnosed with a chronic illness, it can make us feel sad.

It sounds ridiculous. Of course when someone is sick it is going to make us sad. But I genuinely believe it’s not that simple. At least it wasn’t for me.

4 reasons we find it hard to be sad after a diagnosis

1. Sadness is unexpected

To be sad – and only sad – is quite rare.

Life is complex, and so we are often experience several emotions at a time, particularly in the wake of a chronic illness diagnosis.

Our grief is often tainted with anger or bitterness or frustration, or even exhaustion. As a result, when we find ourselves ‘simply’ sad, and ‘only’ grieving, it can feel a bit odd. It is an experience we are not prepared for, and don’t know how to cope with.

This can be uncomfortable and confusing. It was for me. Continue reading “4 reasons admitting we are sad is not that easy”

How to be prepared to talk about someone else’s illness

Answering questions about your Loved One takes a lot of getting used to.
Watching is unique in that people always have something to talk to you about.

Watching means that you, your Loved One, and their sickness, become common ground.

All of a sudden topics that under normal circumstances would require sensitivity, caution, a relationship or ‘easing into’ become a free for all.

And that’s hard to get used to. It never really becomes normal. People will always expect you to be able to answer deep, painful questions at a drop of a hat. Questions like:

How are you feeling?
Is it hard having a mum/dad/sibling/spouse/friend who is sick all the time?
How is your Loved One?
Does your Loved One get depressed?
Does your Loved One know that you find their illness hard?
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How to break the (bad) news of a diagnosis

Being told your Loved One has a chronic sickness, either physical or mental, is devastating.
Telling someone else can be even harder.

It is excruciating.

And the problem is, we all have more than one person in our lives. And so we are forced to tell the same sad story again and again.

This is not a post with a lot of answers. I’m not sure there are answers. But sometimes, empathy is enough. I pray that is the case here. For you. For me.

Breaking the news of a diagnosis is complex (we need to acknowledge this)

Every situation is different – and the truth is, we are going to have share in many situations. We all have best friends, distant friends, close family, family that live far away, colleagues, communities, church families, sport teams, school classes…. The list goes on.

Chances are, sharing with each of them will look different.

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Why you should use cliches when talking about chronic illness

Clichés fly thick and fast around the world of chronic illness.

Keep fighting. You’re so strong.

God has a plan.

It will turn out all right in the end.

He has his ups and downs.

Do these phrases make you wince? Does anger bubble up your throat when you hear them? Do they make you want to go on a hashtag rant on Twitter or write a Facebook essay speckled with ‘angry’ emoji?

I know the feeling.

Why we can’t get rid of clichés when we talk about chronic illness

Clichés are part of life. Some words simply fit better than other ones. And so we reuse them.

And reuse them, and reuse them…
… until they lose their meaning.

Continue reading “Why you should use cliches when talking about chronic illness”