The things that make me different are the things that make me…

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.

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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.

 

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A Christmas Symbol of Life With Chronic Illness

Once again it’s the most wonderful time of the year; and like the Christmases that have come before, we again have been inundated with various iconography associated with Christmas.  Images such as Father Christmas, snow and Christmas trees adorn popular decorations, and greeting cards meant for the holidays.

However, in my opinion, there is one particular image that is often associated with the Christmas season, which is a perfect representation of those living with chronic illnesses. What is it, you ask?

It’s the snowflake!

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It’s well-known that no two snowflakes are alike.  Each one is entirely individual and unique – much like us spoonies.  Not only are we individual, just like everyone else with differing interests and personalities, but also fits in with living with a chronic illness.  Just as we are unique and individual, our chronic conditions and the way they manifest itself are just as unique.  This can be especially true with neurological disorders like mine as well as conditions such as MS and myasthenia gravis (which are both known as a ‘snowflake disease’) because there are so many different symptoms and no two patients are likely to exhibit the same set of symptoms.

Snowflakes as well as being unique and individual, are also beautiful – just like the spoonies that I have had the pleasure of coming into contact with through my blog or my other social media sites.  It is said that snowflakes are fragile, but when one or more snowflakes stick together, they actually become stronger.

During my journey living with this neurological condition, I have learnt many lessons and one such lesson that chronic illness has taught me that there is indeed strength in numbers.  On the days that my body has felt weak and fragile, and feeling that the hope that helps me through is diminishing, it is messages of support from fellow chronically ill people that really helps me through the dark days.   These give me the strength to fight my symptoms and continue to live despite the often debilitating symptoms.

Recently, the symptoms that I live with on a daily basis such as the pain and trembling in the legs, the dizziness, fatigue and weakness have been particularly debilitating, and as a result, I have been experiencing mild symptoms of depression that I often find accompanies periods of ill-health such as these.  Part of these low moods, I have seen myself, comparing myself to others, particularly family and those friends who are close in age to myself, and feeling notably different to everyone else.  And not in a good way.

However, snowflakes, and what they stand for can teach us that it is okay to be different from everybody else.  It teaches us that being individual and unique is in actual fact a good thing and, it is these differences that sets us apart from anybody else, and what makes us special.

Therefore, perhaps when we know someone (particularly a fellow spoonie) who is struggling.  Or who are feeling upset because of something which is affecting them and setting them apart, then maybe we should send them a card or a little present depicting a snowflake to remind them just how beautiful, special and unique they are – and that being different is more than okay.

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Not only a beautiful piece of jewellery but a perfect gift for anyone who is struggling with being different…