It‘s awful having a chronic illness. It sucks.
So we built ourselves a good community. We support each other. But what about them?
By them, I mean our family members. Our friends. Our coworkers. We have no choice about our illness, but neither do they.
Except that’s not true, is it? Think about it. If you could get away from your illness, you probably would, no matter how much you’ve learned from it. You would run and never look back. They can get away from it. Some of them do, but many of them don’t. Many choose to stay. They choose to live with your illness.
That must really suck. Think about it.
They go unnoticed as you get all the attention. The gifts. The cards. The flowers and the endless bunches of grapes.
They may support you financially. They may quit their job and move halfway around the world so you can be closer to your family. They may do their share of everything, and then yours as well so that you can focus on getting better.
They act as your caregiver, washing you in the hospital, sleeping in a tiny chair in the corner of the room, so you don’t have to be alone. They travel miles, several times a day, just to see you for ten minutes before you fall asleep.
They swallow their disappointment when you’re told that you can’t have children because of the damage your illness has done. When you do get pregnant, they are thrilled, even though it means yet another person will be dependent on them.
They miss out on holidays, social gatherings, family events, even a walk down the block because you are too tired. They get canceled on, let down, and disappointed.
They are the recipient of your mood swings, your frustrations, your anger, and those crying jags that come from nowhere.
They feel fear and grief at the loss of life as they knew it, and of the future they planned, but they don’t show it because they don’t want you to feel worse than you already do.
And we thank them by taking them for granted, getting impatient with them, resenting them, overlooking them, and wondering how dare they have a life outside of us. Or maybe we don’t.
Maybe we thank them, cherish them, tell them how much we love them and are grateful for them. Does that make it worthwhile for them? Sometimes. Probably not most of the time. What would you do, in their shoes? What would you honestly do in their shoes?
What am I trying to say? I suspect I’m chastising myself. I find it difficult sometimes to be mindful of those around me, mostly because they make easy for me to do. I have no intentions of putting my needs aside; I’m not going to pretend my illness doesn’t exist, or that every day isn’t a struggle. But I am going to try to be more sensitive this year, make a bigger fuss over them, let someone else take center stage for a bit. Or I will until I forget. I may have to repost this to myself once a month. Or once a week. Whatever it takes. I may be sick of my illness, but they’re not. And I want to keep it that way.