The Longest Ride…of life with Chronic Illness

Living with chronic dizziness is hell.  The unpleasant sensation of having your whole world constantly moving even when still takes everything away from you.  Your friends, social life, independence, career plans to name but a few are lost when chronic illness strikes.  Long-term illness pecks away at your identity; taking pieces of things that make you you: the friends you meet, the places you like to socialise and your hobbies and interests.

For me, living with this neurological condition has taken a lot, and one example of something that it has taken for me is being able to go to the cinema and watch a film.  High ceilings, flashing strobe lights, fluorescent lights are just a few delights that can worsen the severity of the dizziness that I endure constantly.  Furthermore, they can also be triggers for other symptoms associated with the brain stem lesion such as vertigo and visual disturbances.  As someone who loves films this is an incredible loss; I mean sure, I can still watch them at home but there is nothing  like going to the cinema and watching films on the big screen, is there?

A couple of weeks ago, however saw the release of the new Nicholas Sparks film ‘The Longest Ride‘ and as a fan of his books and the adaptations that have been inspired by his works, I just had to try and push myself to go and see the movie.

My ticket for a showing of 'The Longest Ride'
My ticket for a showing of ‘The Longest Ride’

As a result, my carer and I attempted for the first time in several years to visit the cinema.  And I am happy to say that I managed it; successfully staying in the theatre to watch the entire film.  I would love to say it was easy, but like everything with living with a chronic condition  it was not.  The dizziness at times was so severe and my vision kept becoming blurry.  All my instincts was telling me to leave and go somewhere my symptoms although would still exist, would be less severe.  But the love of the film, and the beautiful story that unfolded during the two hours (and was also helped by the gorgeous Scott Eastwood).  The film was a beautiful love story about love itself but also the sacrifices that are made for it.

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This achievement may seem like a very small feat given the fact that going to the cinema is an activity that many people partake in everyday.  Healthy people often take being able to go to places such as the cinema for granted as for me living with a neurological condition, it was a big a challenge as someone attempting to scale an enormous mountain.  So, for me personally this was not a small feat, it was a huge win for me in the conflict that chronic illness has created inside my body.  During the course of watching the film it was not only dizziness, vertigo and the visual disturbances I had to contend with but also severe neuropathic pain in my legs (not helped by the lack of leg room) and the trembling in the legs made it difficult even being able to physically walk to the cinema itself.

I was thinking of the film long after it ended, and kept thinking of its title ‘The Longest Ride’.  For me the title was defined by the enduring love between the two characters, Ruth and Ira.  But it also got me thinking of its meaning in my life.  Living with chronic illness in itself is a long ride.  The term itself is clear of this as the definition of the word can be used to refer to an illness which persists for a long-time or is constantly recurring.

From the onset of symptoms, living with a chronic illness is a long ride, consisting of endless doctor’s and hospital appointments, persistent and recurring symptoms (and often the onset of new ones) as well as the ceaseless days of feeling frail and sick.   Imagine an extremely long and persistent road, well, living with a long-term condition is often like making the long ride down this road, and which often feels like there is no end.  The journey towards diagnosis is even a long ride itself, with repetitive appointments with consultants leading to disappoint as medical tests fail to answer the one question we want answered – what is wrong with me?

Living with chronic illness can often feel like travelling on a long road with no end in sight...
Living with chronic illness can often feel like travelling on a long road with no end in sight…

And even after the diagnosis has been confirmed, chronic illness allows the long ride towards not only acceptance of the diagnosis but also to learn how to live with and manage the symptoms of said chronic illness.

Thinking back to the film, and the gargantuan achievement of going to the cinema despite experiencing such unpleasant symptoms that for one makes it extremely difficult to sit and watch a film but also has previously stopped me from enjoying such perks as trips to the cinema, has made me realise that we should not allow our conditions to take full control over our lives.  Yes, chronic illness is bound to take pieces of our old lives and identity and change them, however we should not allow our illness to stop us from doing things that we love.  Yes, the cinema trip was demanding on me physically, affecting me even days afterwards, experiencing a flare in severe symptoms, but it was still worth the trip.  Not only did I manage to watch a film that I desperately wanted to see, but I also defeated my condition reminding me that I am stronger my condition.

Now, I just need a little reminder of the film and the cinema trip to pin to my positivity board to serve as a reminder of the defeat over the dizziness and my neurological condition/  I was thinking of a postcard of the film poster or something so if anyone has any ideas or anything please get in touch!  And if any of you, love romantic films then I would thoroughly recommend ‘The Longest Ride’.

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