I was reading an interesting book regarding chronic illness, and through this some questions about chronic illness and identity occurred to me.
Obviously, living with a chronic illness does not define any of us – the illness is merely one piece of the puzzle that makes up our lives. As well as being a patient with chronic illness, I have many other identities that make up my life – daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend, avid reader, blogger and so on.
However, can living with a chronic illness (and especially when living with a condition from childhood) influence a person’s identity?
For example, if I didn’t live with the spastic paraparesis which causes the stiffness, weakness and pains in my legs, would I still have an avid interest and love for reading and books, as well as a keen television and film watcher. According to my parents, I was a book lover since I was a very young child, and perhaps the pain in my legs was a reason why I became such a lover of reading instead of taking an interest in sports.
For people, however, who develop a chronic illness later in life, it can threaten one’s identity, disrupting every aspect of their life, including hobbies and interests. Sufferers of chronic illness may have to stop their beloved interests, for example, playing a favourite sport because of pain or fatigue. As a result, it is said that the person may have to ‘reconstruct’ their self-image; for example, finding a new interest which the person can still gain great pleasure from, but not as a consequence to their health.
Lately, I have been struggling with the condition in which I live; I have been feeling even more tired than usual, the dizziness and vertigo have become even more intense and even the weakness, stiffness and pain in my legs have also worsened. Because of this, my emotions have also been up and down – crying and feeling sad being a constant feature in my present.
Thankfully, I have found another interest, thanks to the new social group that I have been attending, I now added to my arts and crafts love – creating and making cards. I have now made a couple – generally takes me longer to complete because my problems with manual dexterity. However, I have grown to love making cards – its relaxing and allows a distraction from the pain and dizziness that I live with constantly. I have even added a photograph of a card that I have made for my Mum for ‘Mother’s Day’ on March 10th!
So, for everyone reading this also battling chronic illness – do you think that the illness has moulded your identity – influencing your choice of hobbies and activities that you enjoy? Has chronic illness made you change particular hobbies and activities because you are no longer able to participate in them? Would love to hear your thoughts….