What I learned from a year of chronic illness

What I learned from a year of chronic illness

Health is more than wealth.

I came out of the womb spewing blood, which, in retrospect, is an ominous indication of the many things that would be faulty with my body. I turned out to be a sickly child — some of my earliest memories include probing doctors, waiting rooms, and sterile hallways. I thought having been confined is a common experience, almost a rite of passage to becoming an adult. And while it wasn’t life-threatening, these health issues would later become part of my life.

These concerns waxed and waned. From infections, body pains, headaches, and whatnot, pain was always there, serving as a cautionary sign that I had always tried to ignore. It didn’t have grave consequences, as my very young body could recuperate quickly. I didn’t have adult responsibilities, and back then, checkups were my parents’ responsibility, not mine. It began to unravel itself when I moved out and got older. Suddenly, this pain was all on me.

2019 came, and the pain got intrusive, forcing me to finally listen to my body. I was always sick, and for the first time in my life, my body was continuously failing me. The usual medications were simply band-aid solutions and day to day living became uncomfortable and rough. It was also taking a toll on my mental health — I felt like I was losing autonomy to my body, and it affected my overall productivity. I felt limited and weak.

 

I felt like I was losing autonomy to my body, and it affected my overall productivity. I felt limited and weak.

 

I obsessively researched my symptoms, which is a double-edged sword on its own. With the help of credible websites and, surprisingly, Reddit, accompanied by trips to the doctor and several medical tests, I had an idea of what was going on with me. For the first time, I had a concrete idea of how I can manage my body.

I learned that chronic pain is something ambiguous, deemed as an invisible disability that needs to be acknowledged. I learned that chronic pain syndromes come in different forms and that it’s an ongoing process of learning and unlearning what makes your body tick.

In my case, it was stomach pain, and with that, eating became difficult. On top of being lactose intolerant (tragic), I became really sensitive to certain types of food. A full day of fast food would turn to a week of suffering, and this came with a cost. Being healthy is a privilege — access to doctors, treatment, and healthy food resources come with a hefty price tag. I had to reevaluate my habits and start to make do with what I have. I figured that the best way to deal with it is simply by minimizing my symptoms. 

I’m not completely healed, and I’m not sure if I ever will be — in fact, I am due to more medical tests. Getting diagnosed is not an end-all be-all. We are not machines that can be “fixed” by tinkering with some parts. But we can find ways to make it work and live with it. 

 

We are not machines that can be “fixed” by tinkering with some parts. But we can find ways to make it work and live with it. 

 

Wellness requires daily upkeep, but it doesn’t have to feel like a punishment. It’s little sacrifices and small decisions that contribute to the whole system, and you have to be willing to commit to feeling good tomorrow than feeling good for a moment. I’ve learned what I can and cannot give up and I found ways to make being healthy more fun and tailored for my liking. (Yes to high-intensity workouts, no to jogging.) Choosing the lesser of two evils is also a good rule of thumb. (Wine over beer.)

You don’t need to overhaul your whole system, you just have to listen to your body carefully. Chronic pain, or illness, doesn’t have to dictate your whole life. I learned that investing in my health is one of the highest forms of self-care. Like everything else, you just have to make it interesting and you have to find what works for you. In the famous words of Chris Traeger, the world can literally be your gymnasium. And please remember to take your vitamins.

Tags:
#fitness #health #opinion #self

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