For a couple of days this week, imagine my surprise that I awoke to no trembling or even pain in my lower limbs. None of the severe shakiness that makes me feel that I am balancing on jelly. No sign of the often debilitating pain that feels as if my legs are being squeezed in a vice, and which makes me wish that I could tear my legs off and discard them like many young children do with their dolls.
For these couple of days, my immediate thoughts after waking and realising that neither of these disabling symptoms had returned were “So that’s what normal feels like!” I had forgotten how it felt not to experience incapacitating pain and trembling in the legs. They had become such a part of my life, that without it, it felt almost strange (although was welcome, if it was only for a couple of days!)
However that it is not to say I have always experienced these particular troublesome symptoms or to this degree as I haven’t, although I had struggled with them for so long now I am unable to recall when they first started. That’s the thing with living with a chronic illness; the unusual and disabling symptoms soon become the norm and part of our daily lives. Life with chronic illness slowly become our new normal.
A lot of people have experienced some moment in their lives when it feels that their lives have been divided into a before and after, whether it be through a bereavement, injury, illness or some other life event. A moment in their lives where they have to adapt to a new normal, the lives which they once knew becomes a chapter in someone else’s story.
Perhaps what is most difficult when living with a chronic illness is that we intermittently experience a glimpse into our lives before illness struck and its onset of debilitating symptoms. Times when our symptoms are mild, or even nonexistent and we are reminded what our old normal looked like. However, this preview of our ‘before illness’ soon ends and we are transported back to our new reality of pain, fatigue and the other symptoms that make up our conditions. It’s we have a brief glimpse into an old, familiar room before a door being slammed shut before we had a chance to step inside and familiarise ourselves with our old surroundings. A preview of an old life that although can be seen it is out of our grasp.
When we are given a chance to experience aspects of our past life, however, what is most surprising is that it no longer feels normal, it feels odd as if that life no longer belongs to us. When living with chronic illness, the abnormal soon becomes the norm and without us even realising, we forget what the old normal looked or felt like. When experiencing our old normal, therefore, it feels abnormal and strange, as if that life no longer fits.
The new normal just becomes normal; erasing our past life and who we once were paving the way for life with a long-term condition and who we are now.