Things are good, you’ve had low impacting symptoms for a while and you’re starting to remember your pre-diagnosis life. Surviving quite happily on a steady dose of painkillers and enjoying the festive fun.
Not so fast pal!
Cue a poorly child you’re responsible for nursing back to good health, a weather change, or maybe an allergic reaction to some costume jewellery. Could it maybe you’ve done a little more walking than you usually do, or a long drive? – and bang!
Hey chronic illness, long time no see.
Now there’s no need to pretend like all the above things haven’t been thoroughly enjoyable, because if it wasn’t for those things you would have been sure to shrivel up and die of sadness, but when a flare up occurs it can be completely life limiting, and that’s why it’s called an invisible illness, because you don’t see it coming.
It’s December and Christmas cheer is everywhere. You’re getting right into the spirit of it and so you should, but then you catch that cold your daughter came home from preschool last week with, and it’s downhill from here.
I wanted to write a bit about how it feels to have a ‘just a cold‘ whilst fighting a chronic illness and what catching viruses does to our already weakened immune system.
Of course at first it starts like any other common cold and you get a sniffle or a bit of a sore throat. Then the pain from your congested sinuses trigger a migraine and the onslaught of nausea that follows makes you feel weak and shaky – for days!
Once that’s passed, the aching from the flu like symptoms, makes your already weary joints feel like they’ve been battered with a hammer, every single bone in your body feels bruised and your skin is sore to the touch. The raging temperature you’ve acquired messes with your already shot internal thermostat, and you constantly flit between grabbing extra layers and peeling sweat covered ones from your limbs. After you’ve done that a few times the fatigue completely floors you, and you have to close your eyes. Which is a bit of a problem when you’re sat at your desk or the school run needs doing. Your concerned coworker kindly reminds you to get more sleep. (Insert eye roll)
What is just a sniffle to the average Joe, can disable someone with an already weakened immune system, so if you see them feeling a bit sorry for themselves try and refrain from telling them to man up. You can’t see the fight they’re fighting but underneath the snot their body feels like they’re in the ring with Ali. Don’t make an assumption that because people look well means they aren’t battling, they may well be trying harder to conceal it and some of us are very good at doing just that, it comes with years of practise!
It’s so important to pace yourself when you suffer from a chronic condition, but it’s also really difficult when you’re feeling well to remember to do this, and not get down about missing out on fun stuff. FOMO is real!!! Suffice to say I didn’t pace myself all too well this time around and now I’m paying for it.
I’ve tried really hard to fight through the tougher days lately, and I’ve done so with not much back lash, however the start of this flare up is swiftly reminding me that actually I need to slow down. So this is my reminder to you, be kinder to yourself and anyone you know who has an invisible illness – the winter struggle is real for us all, but it’s even harder for those of us living with chronic illness.