Imagine walking down a busy street. Look at the faces of the people walking past you in the street. Every one of those people will currently, or at some point in their history has faced a battle. Some of these battles may be visible, detectable to others, eliciting empathy and compassion. Other battles, however, are invisible; concealed from everyone else, like a deeply hidden secret. A struggle that is only known by the person carrying the burden of the fight.
I am one of those people who are fighting an unseen, invisible fight. If you were to sit next to me on a bus, you would never know that I was living with a neurological condition. The only signs being when I am staggering along with my crutch. Or on the days where my weak legs confine me to the use of my wheelchair, even then I am met with confused stares silently asking why I am in need of such aids.
The personal fight I face as a result of my neurological condition although may not be visible to others, for me, however, is very real. For me, it is not invisible; it is my life. Every step is a struggle, with legs trembling so much that it feels as if they will buckle, although no one can see. For others, the world is still, unmoving. For me, however, the world seems off-balance, as if everything is slightly tilted, and at other times it seems as if there is constant motion. Every day I fight against fatigue to do everything that everyone often takes for granted such as being able to go shopping, take a shower or cook a meal for the family.
Every day is a battleground between myself and my body. Like with any battles in history, there are times I am forced to surrender – such as those days when my legs are so weak, or the dizziness is so severe that I am unable to get out of bed, let alone stand or walk. Those days I am forced to surrender to my condition and stay confined to my bed. That’s the thing about living with a chronic illness; it is often a balancing act between surrendering to our symptoms and fighting against them.
It is not just the symptoms that we have to fight. We also have to fight against the judgements of other people regarding our long-term health conditions. At the start of our chronic illness journey, we are initially met with understanding and compassion, friends and family make allowances for our limitations. As time passes, however, the understanding and compassion dissipates and is replaced with frustration. Frustration at us still not being well enough to go out and take part in activities we used to before illness took over our lives. The grievance at the chores still left untouched as illness still will not allow me to attend to them. My parents, although often extremely supportive and understanding of my condition will sometimes feel embittered at finding certain chores left untouched after coming home from work, not realising that the day has been waived for a day on the sofa as a result of debilitating and unrelenting symptoms. And they are unaware of this as to look at me, you only see a healthy woman.
It may seem that the neurological condition takes a significant amount of space in my life, it, however, does not own or control me. Yes, it may borrow my life at times, restraining me to the four walls of this house I live in, but the condition does nor ever will take my entire life. There are certain things that I am unable to do because of this condition; certain baggage that it has created, but there are still plenty of other things that I can and have done that I can still do.
This unseen condition may fight for control for every facet of my personal life. Now, however, I have chosen to fight back, and although I have not won control for every area of my life, I have elected to manage aspects of my life that I do have control over. I have chosen to live side by side with my condition instead of merely enduring life with it.
I choose to live rather than simply survive.