A Patient’s Perspective: What I’ve Learned
The challenge of living with chronic illness is one that is not apparent to the outside world. Being sick is like being on a roller coaster — one minute you are feeling well and in good spirits, and the next, you feel sick and doubtful. It is an exhausting experience, but it is also a learning experience.
Further, no one knows what living with chronic illness is like better than you and no one knows the challenges better than you do. Your journey is an experience of adjusting and accepting. It is also one that involves embracing new challenges and learning from those experiences. You have to be informed and educated about your illness in order to better manage your disease and there is a lot of uncertainty involved. You just have to learn to take life as it comes, reflect upon what you have gained as a result of your experiences, use those experiences to your advantage and learn to separate grief from joy.
It has been more than four years since my diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia (FM). People still wonder how I function and live my life despite being in pain and feeling sick all the time. They do not know what a day in my life is like. They just know I live with two diseases that wreak havoc on all aspects of life.
If anything, time has taught me that living with RA and fibromyalgia, although hard to believe, is just a part of who I am.
Accepting and Adjusting
The first year of my life with chronic illness was about finding acceptance and adjusting to a new life with illness and pain. That first year was the hardest year of my life but I learned a lot about myself including my capabilities, my strengths and my weaknesses. I was forced to change my career plans and to change the person I was and the priorities I had. I also learned I could still be successful, but had to change my perceptions on what success meant. Once I was able to accept that I was more than just a person living with chronic illness and pain, I was able to determine my fate.