A Spoonie Norwegian Adventure

At the end of May came the time that my parents and I have been looking forward to – our annual cruise.  And this year, I have been particularly excited as this year we booked a cruise around the beautiful scenery of the Norwegian Fjords.  As the symptoms associated with my neurological condition had worsened somewhat over the past few months it did incite some anxiety.  However, after the successful trip to Hay-On-Wye the week before our departure did lessen this somewhat; in fact, I almost felt like Stella after getting her groove back!  The excitement for the trip returned, and the Queen hit ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ became my new anthem as I had a deep determination that nothing was going to stop me from enjoying this much-anticipated cruise, not even pesky symptoms such as trembling legs.

Time to be monkeying around! (one of our amazing towel animals during our stay created by our lovely state room attendant
Time to be monkeying around! (one of our amazing towel animals during our stay created by our lovely state-room attendant

Of course, as much as a holiday is a brief escape from the realities of our everyday life, and our enduring physical surroundings, there is no break however when living with a long-term health condition however and all of its accompanying symptoms.  There were many times during the cruise that I was overwhelmed by the painful sensations flowing throughout my legs, as well as fatigue dragging me under into its grasps.  As a result, I ended up crashing in our cabin after dinner; curled up in bed in comfortable pyjamas and binge-watching a comforting television programme via Netflix.  And one of the many reasons why I love to cruise is that sleep is so much easier to come by then when I’m at home, consumed by chronic pain, with the gentle (sometimes not so gentle) rocking of the ship.

At first there was the inevitable FOMO (fear of missing out) on all the evening entertainment on offer (as well as the embarrassment of knowing that there were young children out longer than myself!) but then I realised that I could push through the fatigue, pain and other symptoms to stay on and party through the night then inevitably I will end up missing out on more by being too unwell enough to venture off the ship and explore the beauty of Norway for myself (although granted I was able to enjoy some of the amazing scenery from our cabin with its panoramic ocean view).  Also bearing in mind, however that one of the great benefits of cruising, especially with Royal Caribbean is that some of its entertainment can be enjoyed from the comfort of your cabin through its own broadcasting channel on the TV.  So, I wasn’t always even missing out on the fun, and could do it in the comfort of my PJ’s!  A spoonie’s dream!  I did manage to take in one show during our week long-stay on Navigator of the Seas; the ice-show with amazing ice dancers, which I thoroughly enjoyed, the flashing of the strobe lights did trigger some episodes of vertigo however but with the recent mindfulness and meditation exercises I have been practising I was able to keep the anxiety under control and not react, i.e. panic when these symptoms arose.

I have written about the benefits of cruising when living with a chronic illness or disability previously so I won’t repeat the points that I have already made.  What I will say however is that Norway is hands down the best cruise destination that I have experienced.  Not only does it offer the most amazingly beautiful scenery but found the style of living of this spectacular country to be incredibly relaxing.  We are so used to observe people rushing around here in the UK, constantly busy and in a hurry to get to somewhere so it was refreshing to be in a country which appears to be much more laid-back and life runs at a slower pace.  As someone who is confined to a body that is continually weakened and tired by constant and incessant symptoms; always trying to keep up with the fast pace of the world around me, I welcomed and embraced this different lifestyle to our own.

In my opinion, I also believe that the Norwegian Fjord itinerary is the ideal choice for those considering their first cruise, or those travelling with a disability.  As many of the ports are located within the centre of the city or town, therefore, when disembarking the ship, you are to explore the area at your leisure as all the local amenities are within easy walking distance.  For me, I found this much less stressful than some of the other places we have visited on other cruises, especially those which require a shuttle bus to transport you from the port as it usually required some waiting around in large and claustrophobic crowds.  Bergen, the first port of call we visited, did require shuttle bus transport from the port, however, the minibus for those with wheelchairs was ready waiting for us as we departed the ship which took the stress out, and as fatigue descended upon all of us and we were ready to wave goodbye to Bergen, the minibus was again ready and waiting for us right where it dropped us off.

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Bergen on a grey and damp day

The second port of call, Olden which greeted us straight away with its majestic and beautiful views is often a favourite for those who love to hike, but as someone with mobility problems I obviously unable to pursue such adventurous pursuits.  I was not to miss out however, as a little land-train greeted us from the parking area where the ship was moored, which took us around one side of its lake before travelling down the other and back to the ship.  A must for anyone who wishes to take in the beauty of Olden but has mobility difficulties or are in a wheelchair.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the third port of call, I was too unwell to be able to venture off the ship to explore the cosmopolitan town of Alesund.  But instead of dwelling on that what I could not do, I instead focused on everything that I had achieved during the holiday despite the wobbly legs and other symptoms that I was continuously fighting against.  Thankfully, the day of rest was exactly what the doctor ordered and I found myself fit enough to go off ship and enjoy the wonderous city of Stavanger.  Mum and I enjoyed the time to walk around this fantastic city and take in some of the more familiar shops such as H and M, Zara as well as observing the all-too familiar sights of McDonald’s and Starbucks! Although my favourite part of the day was taking a wander up to the old town of Stavanger to observe and appreciate the quaintness of its old cobblestones and the cities old homes.  It was on this day that my stubborn streak regarding the use of the wheelchair, insisting that I didn’t need it and pushing through the pain.  Of course, by the end of the day the pain was excruciating and in need of a long soak in one of the whirlpools aboard the ship, which only seemed to ease the pain for a short time.  That would be a piece of advice for fellow cruisers – a mobility aid is there for a reason – to be used, so don’t become a martyr to the pain or other symptoms that may require you to use the chair.  By doing so, you will be able to do and enjoy much more than if you didn’t use it!

 

To conclude the adventure of exploring the gorgeousness of the Norwegian Fjords, I would have to affirm that this has to be one of my all-time favourite holiday destinations, and that I am now a tiny little bit in love with Norway!

Back in the driving seat…

As I have been enervated by symptoms, almost leading to the feeling of being trapped in a prison surrounded by invisible tormentors.  However, I was not only trapped inside my own body; a metaphorical prison whilst enduring persistent and unrelenting symptoms but these were also keeping me inside my home due to their severity as well as the fear of the possibility suffering another fall in public.  It was as if the symptoms were acting as prison guards, keeping me imprisoned in my home and the same four walls in which I already spent the majority of my time to begin with.  I longed for adventure, to experience activity and excitement, like the characters in the books that had become my constant companion as I convalesced in my bedroom.

Adventure. Spontaneity.  Two words that is not synonymous with life with a neurological condition.  Going on an adventure when living with any chronic illness requires planning with almost military precision, and is reliant on a number of factors such as how you are feeling on the day that has been set out for the planned adventure.  Personally for me, big adventures are also dependent on whether or not my legs are being cooperative on the day, and if they are somewhat weak and the wheelchair is needed then it needs to be a mild dizzy day so the motion sickness does not present itself!  Spontaneity is near possible when living with a chronic illness!

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During a short reprieve from my condition and its accompanying symptoms, I made the decision to make a trip to Hay-on-Wye with my carer on a sunny afternoon in late May.  I say that it was a reprieve, but the symptoms were very much there but the severity of them was not as bad as it had been, so it did feel somewhat of a reprieve but at this point it felt that my condition and its symptoms had been very much in the driving seat dictating everything, from how I was feeling to what I could and could not do and I was tired.   I was ready to finally take back control and be the one in the driving seat instead of being the passenger on my own ride.

Hay-On-Wye is a small market town located in Powys, West Wales is a place that I had been before, but have desperately wanting to return to since.  It’s most famous as being the town of books with an impressive number of bookshops adorning the streets of the quaint little town.  As a massive bookworm myself, this beautiful place is like a little piece of heaven for me, and I was really excited to make a return to this mecca of literature.

The many wonderful bookshops of Hay-on-Wye
The many wonderful bookshops of Hay-on-Wye

The day itself was beautiful with majestic blue skies with a warm gentle breeze.  It was a beautiful start, the only problem being my extremely trembling legs, as unfortunately the place being somewhat unsuitable for a wheelchair, meant that I had to rely on what felt like incredibly unreliable legs.  But even that wasn’t going to stop me as somehow despite how tough things have been, I finally found my sparkle again.  And despite wobbly legs, several near falls and major fatigue I had a great time in this wonderful little town.  I  was able to browse the many quaint and unique bookshops, treated myself to lunch and just sat down and soaked in the sights and a little vitamin D.  It was a great day; probably the best I’ve experienced for a long while.

Above all I learnt just how much control I allowed my condition to have on my life, yes, some of this was because I had no physical control over this such as the severe weakness and trembling in my legs.  However, I let myself believe that because of the severe symptoms I was not able to do anything at all.  I thought this was my reality, when in fact it was only my perception of the situation.  On the day I discovered determination and strength I never knew I possessed. It felt like pain had my legs trapped in its vice-like grip, but determined to sought out lots of books, I carried on.   Yes, my legs were weak and uncooperative, ready to give way in a blink of an eye, but there are plenty of ways to still an enjoy a day out.  The use of a wheelchair, for example, or by taking regular breaks as we did in Hay (and the perfect excuse to enjoy a hot chocolate!). We may not be able to enjoy a long day out, or a day out like we used to but with appropriate accommodations we can still enjoy a day out somewhere special.  Are there any perceptions regarding your condition that you think to be reality?

Admittedly, I perhaps overdone things that day given the fatigue and amount of pain I experienced days after but even that cannot tarnish the memories and the experience of the day.  And above all it felt brilliant to be back in the car, even if I’m not always in control…

 

Life on autopilot…

I realise that I have been deathly quiet in regards to my writing recently but unfortunately I have been really struggling with well, everything.

I have been finding that the trembling in the legs is becoming increasingly worse.  Standing is becoming extremely uncomfortable and impossible to do for very long as I am feeling the severity of the tremors and the buckling of them whilst queueing or whilst completing the washing-up for example.  With regards to standing, it has been evoking anxiety as I am always afraid that they will suddenly give way, which has been happening to much embarrassment.  It was not until I was speaking to a person who has similar problems to myself, that using two crutches maybe more beneficial for myself than using just the one as it offers increased stability when standing and walking and reducing the risk of falls.  I loved the idea of being able to save myself from falls as because I have been experiencing so many of them my bruises have bruises!

The owner of the gym even kindly let me borrow a couple of the crutches that have been donated to the Feelgood Factory.  Unfortunately, after using them for a few days around the house and even once whilst out with my carer, I have decided that this option is not for me as not only have I found using two incredibly awkward and uncomfortable, they have also proved to be inconvenient.  For example, whilst in the house on my own, I was unable to carry my lunch from the kitchen to the living room as I had no free hands to spare!  It has also been found to be inconvenient when out shopping as I am left unable to pick items from the shelves or racks and therefore offers me less independent than using the one crutch as I am reliant on other people to do my shopping for me.  In addition, because of the dizziness I have always found that holding onto someone for support, such as linking arms gives me comfort and confidence when out and about and so using two crutches also prevents me from having the support of another person.

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So, I now have to make a decision to make whether to start using the wheelchair on a more permanent basis; although I do not always feel comfortable in using one because of the dizziness and vertigo, it has been put to me that because of the increasing severity of the trembling as I have stated above and the increased number of incidents of falls then it may be the time that I need to start thinking of using it for the majority of the time when I am outside of the house.  This is not only to keep me safe from further injuries, but also prevents my falls from injuring others or even from falling and damaging items that are on display in the stores that I visit.  It is not an easy to decision to make; for anyone it is difficult to admit weakness and further to admit that you need help.  It’s difficult to accept that my legs are getting worse and further that I may need further support such as the wheelchair to be able to get around when out of the house.

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Fatigue has also been a big problem for me also.  As the pain and trembling have been bad during the nights, sleep as a result has been limited and thus leaving me exhausted through the day.  Naps has been my best friend lately and have found myself falling asleep during the afternoons.  These naps are more frequent and last longer after days where I am out and about I have also noticed.  Fatigue not only leaves you feeling absolutely exhausted but also leaves you with little energy (or in our case ‘spoons’) to be able to do things that we would ordinarily do with ease.  Completing one circuit of the gym has been extremely challenging, whereas before I could complete two with ease.  Chores has left me unable to function for hours.  Not only it has had an effect on my energy levels either.  It has also had an effect on my mood – not only have I been snapping with very little provocation but I have also been feeling very low.  I would not say it’s depression but am just generally low in mood.

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In other news, I finally have had an appointment with the neurology consultant for early next month so I am hoping that all of the test results that I have had done over the past few months have found something, or there are ways in which they can help me and improve my overall quality of life.  When things are bad such as what I am experiencing at the moment, it can often seem as if we are just existing rather than living; if we are just going through the motions or living on autopilot but I am determined to continue to fight my way through the bad patch and find my silver lining…

Tweet: When things are bad it can often seem as if we are just existing rather than living http://ctt.ec/b30e0+ via @serenebutterfly #spoonie

Sometimes we need to throw out the rule book…

These past couple of days, I have been experiencing the severe trembling sensations in my legs.  Well, I have these sensations all of the time, of course, however the trembling has been somewhat more severe recently.  It is not just these sensations which I have found to be particularly troublesome of late; the fatigue, and the pain associated with the spastic paraparesis have also been bothersome.  At times, living with all these symptoms as well as the constant dizziness has been increasingly difficult and miserable.  Everyone reading this who also experiences chronic illness, will know that when experiencing a relapse, or a bad flare regarding our symptoms, you need to balance the amount of physical activity whether it be exercising, going out or doing chores around the house, with resting your body and taking a break from activity that may exacerbate symptoms.

And I have been doing this; I have listened to my body and took a break from attending the gym, as the trembling in the legs on the day I usually visit was particularly bad.  I even had to cut short my day out with my carer as I felt too unwell and tired to go anywhere else, on that particular day.  However, I have also found that whilst I was balancing the amount of physical activity I was doing and resting; the symptoms were still not improving.  So, when Thursday arrived, and as I hadn’t been out for a few days, and felt miserable as a result, I decided to thrown the rule book out of the window and enjoy the day without worrying about symptoms or maintaining that balance of physical activity with resting.  Of course, on the day I needed to take my wheelchair because of the severity of the trembling in the legs, but was determined that despite all this I was going to enjoy the glorious weather and spend the day away from my bed and the same four walls that I had been cooped up in for several days.

I am so glad that I went out despite not feeling my best and whilst battling severe symptoms.

I had a really enjoyable day out; the weather was gloriously warm and it felt so lovely to be out of the house and feeling the warm sunshine on my skin.  The symptoms, and especially the trembling in my legs were still so bothersome that I was unable to go to the gym, so we decided that instead we would spend the day visiting a little town near to where I live called Cowbridge. I had previously only been there once, and not for very long so thought it would make a change to visit somewhere relatively new and going into little shops and boutiques that I had never experienced before.  I even managed to treat myself to a gorgeous ring that I had seen online by one of my favourite jewellery designers Annie Haak, but had been unsure of purchasing as I was worried that it would not fit my very small fingers!  However, whilst browsing the shop windows in Cowbridge, we came across a little jewellery store that stocked these very same rings!  And after trying on the ring and found that it did fit my fingers, I bought it.  I am so pleased with my purchase and is a lovely reminder of our day out and triumphing over my symptoms.

The gorgeous Annie Haak adjustable ring that I bought for myself
The gorgeous Annie Haak adjustable ring that I bought for myself

“When we are experiencing more bad days then good, we need to make the most of those good days” (Click to Tweet)

The day was not just spent shopping; part of the day was spent relaxing in this pretty and scenic gardens that my carer came across on a previous visit to Cowbridge.  It was so nice just to sit and relax amongst the beautiful and colourful flowers.  It also created the perfect time to take some photographs to commemorate this splendid day out that I enjoyed so much.  In my experience of living with chronic illness, is that when we are experiencing more bad days than good, we therefore need to really make the most of those good days.  Living with a chronic illness, it is so wonderful to make lovely memories that we can look back on during the bad days and reflect upon.

The past couple of days after this day out has been very bad; the trembling in the legs were once again very severe, more so than before, and left unable to fully function.  Do I regret the day out now?  No, absolutely not.  As I said before, living a life with illness, where you experience more bad days than good, we therefore have to take full advantage of the days which are good.  Although it was not a particularly good day health-wise on this day, I felt that I could physically do more than previous days and so took full advantage.  I may be suffering after, however but I still have those lovely, positive memories to look back on and a gorgeous ring to admire.

So, although rest is vital and important when living a life with chronic illness, sometimes however it is just as important to sometimes throw the rule book out of the window and go and make memories to cherish and look back on when illness prevents us from doing anything else.  Let’s go out and live our lives, and take full advantage of the rare good days and make glorious memories in the process…

Recent 5 Challenges and Small Victories

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists.  Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon prompts given.

Today’s prompt reads as follows:

5 Challenges & 5 Small Victories…Make a list of the 5 most difficult parts of your health focus.  Make another top 5 list for the little, good things (small victories) that keep you going

Again this is a post that has been part of the Health Activist Month Challenge before; I had thought of skipping this prompt, however, I then realised that life with chronic illness can change overtime and therefore, I have decided to do the and write about the challenges and victories of life with my neurological condition.  I will think of the recent challenges and victories that have been in my life, and without looking at the previous post that I had written and can then compare how my condition has changed over time.

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Challenges 

  1. The first challenge that has been rather large in my life recently is definitely fatigue.  The fatigue recently has been constant and unrelenting.  Often I have no energy, and when I do find the little energy to do things, then I am so shattered afterwards that I find I may need a nap but often that does not help the tiredness that I feel.  After being out with my carer, I often find myself collapsing on my bed, and before I realise I have fallen asleep.  It has also left me with a lack of energy to be able to do the simplest chores around the house, for example, my ironing has been piling up recently as I have had no energy to be able to tackle the pile of clothes there waiting for me.
  2. My legs have also been challenging for me as late.  If I am not battling against the pain, weakness and trembling in my legs then I am dealing with loss of sensation in them.  The last few days the pain and trembling has been particularly bad and therefore makes walking both painful and challenging, but more than that it has also led to several falls resulting in cuts and bruises on my body.  I am unable to stand for very long because of the spastic paraparesis, which in itself is a challenge as it prevents me from being able to chores such as ironing or cooking without the aid of aids.
  3. The dizziness is another symptom which I have also found to have worsened recently, which has made it extremely difficult to go out, especially when needing the wheelchair.  Because the dizziness has been so severe recently, I have had to rely on hats whilst out on trips with my carer.  Wearing a hat allows certain visual disturbances which worsen the constant dizziness I live with, or induces the vertigo to be eliminated from my eye line, therefore decreasing the severity of the dizziness and vertigo. The dizziness has been very severe lately, and because of it I have even had to cut short trips out.  More time has been spent lying down in a quiet room as the vertigo has been so intense; and suppose it has been such a challenge to live with, that I am not living life as I should.
  4. I have needed the wheelchair a lot more recently which is also a challenge; because of the severity of the dizziness just being in the wheelchair feels very uncomfortable due to all of the movement and visual stimuli that I am subjected to.  It seems that recently I have lost all confidence in using the wheelchair, but on the other hand I really need to use it because of how weak my legs are – am often in a catch-22 situation!  It is also a challenge as I am due to go on a cruise in 3 weeks, and will need the wheelchair a lot more, especially when off the ship, visiting the cities which we are stopping at such as Rome and Florence.  It will be a big challenge trying to cope with the severe dizziness and being in the wheelchair at the same time.
  5. Feeling reliant on other people most of the time.  It can be very demoralising when you are unable to do things that once came so naturally, and needing other people to help you.  I wish I could be a lot more independent, and feel so helpless when I cannot even go out somewhere on my own.  It’s very frustrating!

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Victories

  1. I have mentioned this in a recent post entitled -‘I went and I conquered‘ but a recent victory of mine was definitely going into Next, a local retail store and being able to shop in there!  This was a big step for me – because of the dizziness, stores such as Next can aggravate the dizziness and vertigo and makes them a lot worse because of the layout of the store, the height of the ceiling as well as the fluorescent lighting used.  My carer and I have been trying for a long time for me to even set foot in there.  It such a joy, knowing that I can shop in-store, save myself the cost of postage and packing, and even trying clothes on; something I haven’t been able to do for such a long time.  I have since shopped in there several more times since the original blog post and bought several items that I need for the holiday we are soon to embark on.
  2. This actually links in with a challenge listed above regarding the use of a wheelchair.  Yesterday the weakness in my legs was significantly bad, and so as my carer and I were headed to a local garden centre, it was decided that I very much needed to use the wheelchair.  The dizziness was severe, and so I was nervous about using it.  But, I actually was victorious against the dizziness, and managed to stay in the wheelchair and even managed to wheel myself around.  I felt in control whilst using the wheelchair for the first time in a while.  This is a victory as it has really boosted in my confidence at the thought of needing to use the wheelchair on holiday.
  3. I think another recent victory was keeping up with the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge especially considering how severe the fatigue has been recently.  It has been difficult to do anything as I have felt so tired but being able to keep up with this writer’s challenge has been a real victory for me as it has been very difficult doing it, but shows that I am able to push through and come out the other side.
  4. One thing that really keeps me going are the networks that I have created thanks to social media.  The friends I have made really keep me going through the dark and difficult times and is always a ray of sunshine, receiving a message of support on a day in which you are really struggling.  I am really proud to be involved with a new online community for those with neurological conditions, and it is the work behind the scenes which at the moment is really giving me a purpose which is a great and important victory especially as living with such conditions can make you feel so dependant on others.
  5. My positivity board is a real victory and one thing that does keep me going despite living with a chronic illness.  A lot of people have contacted me regarding my board, and have even created one for themselves!  I love that I have inspired others and help make someone stay positive through their own illness or troubles.

So, those are my recent challenges and small victories!  To read about what I had written previously then please go to ‘HAWMC Day 27: 5 Challenges and 5 Small Victories…

What about your own challenges and victories – have they changed over time as your condition has changed?  Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.  Please feel free to post your comments below…

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry on Wheelin’

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists.  Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon prompts given.

The first prompt reads as given:

Keep Calm and Carry On…Write and create your own “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster.  Try to make it about your own condition!  You can then go to (http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/) and actually make an image to post to your blog.

 

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I have chosen this particular phrase for my own ‘Keep Calm’ poster as it reflects my life with my condition at this time in my life.  As regular readers of my blog will know that my condition, and a symptom known as spastic paraparesis causes severe stiffness and weakness in my legs; as a result, my legs will often give way and often without any notice.  In addition, the stiffness often causes a lot of pain (when I have feeling in them, that is!) and therefore unable to walk very far.  As these symptoms have been increasing in severity, I am therefore required to use a wheelchair when I am out for long periods of time, or somewhere which requires a lot of walking.

The dizziness, that I experience however, makes it feel very uncomfortable to use the wheelchair due to the motion upsetting my vision and causing severe dizziness and vertigo.  But, as my legs are often too weak and the pain and trembling make it considerably difficult to walk, then I need to disregard the dizziness, and use the wheelchair anyway.

In nearly four weeks, I am going on a cruise, and of course, part of the holiday is going on excursions to some of the cities that we are visiting.  In doing so, it requires a lot of walking and due to the severity of the symptoms, I am going to have to use the wheelchair no matter how bad the dizziness is – and therefore I will have to just ‘Keep Calm and Carry on Wheelin’!

Being visibly invisible: The debate of stigma and invisible vs visible illnesses

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Welcome to the seventeenth day of the National Health Blog Post Month Challenge hosted by WEGO Health.  Every day during the month of November I will be writing a new blog post related to health and living with a chronic illness based on given prompts provided by WEGO Health.

Today’s post reads:

Invisible Illness versus Visible Illness: What are some stigmas you have experienced with your invisible OR visible illnesses that have made you feel invisible?  How have you tackled them?

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Etymologically the word ‘stigma’ derives from the Greek word stigma, meaning a mark of disgrace either made from branding or pointing.  The mark was used to mark individuals who were seen as different, and by branding such individuals with visible marks it made it possible for society to avoid them.  In modern times, although many groups of society are not marked in this way, they still are shunned by society.  And those individuals living with illnesses; either visible or invisible are just one example of a group that are still being rejected by the wider society.

As I am someone who has lived through illness at times when it has been both invisible and visible, I can categorically state that stigma occurs in both of these categories.  Obviously, when the illness is invisible, however, it is harder for people to stigmatise individuals with such conditions as you cannot tell that there is a problem with them, unless it has been divulged to them.  These social networks however may be an example of a group that stigmatises an individual because of an invisible illness.  For example, I know many people who constantly live with fatigue, and often as a result have to cancel appointments or plans with others because of it.  Friends and acquaintances however do not tolerate or accept this behaviour as they cannot imagine or accept that tiredness can have such an adverse impact upon a person, and as result can perceive the individual as being lazy or uninterested in their friends.

We need supportive friends when living with an invisible illness and to be believed and supported
We need supportive friends when living with an invisible illness and to be believed and supported

Also, with many invisible illnesses, those suffering with such conditions do not always look sick, and consequently many do not acknowledge the fact that they are in fact sick, and the term “But you look so good!” is therefore banded about.  It is this lack of looking unwell, that results in many not believing a person when they do divulge that they are sick and has become one of the most common stigmas of invisible illnesses.  Another common stigma associated with invisible chronic conditions is the train of thought that such individuals do not deserve such privileges such as a disabled blue badge; a stigma that I myself have faced on several occasions and have written about in a previous post entitled ‘Becoming Visible in an Invisible World‘.

Being in a wheelchair can make you feel as if you are invisible!
Being in a wheelchair can make you feel as if you are invisible!

However, as I am at the stage where I need a wheelchair going out, my condition therefore is now much more visible, so what are the stigmas that I have faced whilst living with a visible chronic health condition?  The first that I have really noticed is the feeling that the condition and disability is taking over my  personal identity; the often feeling that people see me as the ‘girl in the wheelchair’ rather than the person I am.   An example, of this is the fact that when I have been out recently, people often talk to my carer or the person I am with instead of talking directly to myself.  This can be demoralising, and feels as if people perceive all individuals with disabilities as being unable to hold a conversation.  My problem is with my legs and not my intellect, I often feel like screaming.  It’s as if that because people need to look down on us, in the literal sense, then it must mean we all need to be pitied or looked down upon, metaphorically speaking.

When people do not talk to me directly, which I have encountered on numerous occasions, this definitely makes me feel very much invisible.  The way I have tackled this problem, is by holding my head up high and starting conversations with people on checkouts; and in shops as a way of subtly letting them know that although I am in a wheelchair I do not need someone to talk for me; I find it does work and the same cashiers have not done it again!

 

Do you live with an invisible or visible health condition?  What are some examples of stigma that you have personally faced?  As ever would love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well as any other comments you may have!  Feel free to comment below…