This post is deeply personal and difficult to write, but as I think it will resonate with many others who are forced to live with illness everyday, it is therefore an important one to write.
There are many times that I dislike myself and am ashamed of who I have become. If I could be anyone else, I would gladly choose anyone else’s life to live rather than my own. A lot of that is down to the neurological condition that I live with; everything that life with chronic illness has given me, I believe however that it has taken much more away. The symptoms that I endure, and the impact that it has on my life has stripped away friendships, my independence and ability to provide for myself through meaningful employment that was my aspiration after graduating university and before the deterioration of my condition. The dreams that I had and the direction that I wanted my life to take was snatched from me and was instead forced to reevaluate everything and take a different path.
I am sure that I am not the only person living with a chronic illness to feel or have felt this way. To look at others, measuring ourselves against them and ending up feeling rather superfluous in comparison. When I think of my family and seeing myself through their eyes, I often believe that I must be somewhat of a disappointment to them. After all I have not achieved anything substantial during my life thus far, rather my life consisting of being stuck inside the same four walls or attending one hospital appointment after another. These thoughts are not consistent and perhaps are worse during the darkest of days.
However, I came across the most beautifully compassionate and profound quote written by A.A Milne and famously said by his most famous creation, Winnie-the-Pooh.
Perhaps chronic illness are the largest part of ourselves that make us different but then without it then we wouldn’t be who we have become. Living with a neurological condition and its symptoms, for many years before being diagnosed, it has shaped who I have become as a person as a result. If not for living with a neurological condition, I may have become an entirely different person, but then it would not necessarily mean they would be a better person. I like to think of myself as a compassionate and caring person; someone who is there for others and perhaps this part of what defines me as a person is as a result of the experiences of living with this neurological condition.
We often think of chronic illness as being the defining feature of the negative aspects of our personality and lives in general – the loss of independence, loss of self-confidence and so on but perhaps life with a chronic illness may also be the influence for the positive aspects which what defines us. If it weren’t for chronic illness, I personally would never have been such an avid user of social media, or the author of a blog for example and as a result would never have found my close friends that I have made since sharing my experiences of living with a neurological condition. Furthermore, I may not have such a close relationship with my parents if it had not been for the condition that has affected them just as much as myself.
The difficulties faced when living with a chronic illness or neurological disorder are extremely difficult and as a result of living with these for many years we develop a strength and resilience that was not there prior to the onset of symptoms and may not have developed if not for chronic illness.
The people closest to me, can see beyond the neurological condition that I see as being such a big part of my life, and see my value despite the effects of chronic illness, and which I may not recognise in myself. They recognise the things that make me different from everyone else and yet still love me because it’s those differences that make me and despite me being ashamed of that which makes me different from others.
A.A Milne should be celebrated for not only his profound words and insights of life but also for making those who may feel different from everyone else be proud of those differences and allow themselves to celebrate their individuality.