It still continues to astonish me how much difficulty a lot of people have with understanding the true nature of chronic illness. I’ve often said that our society is much better equipped to deal with acute illnesses, as well as terminal conditions, as opposed to chronic forms of illness.
Most of us are familiar with the onset of an acute medical condition. We may feel utterly miserable, but we take comfort in knowing that our suffering is time-limited. Before I developed chronic illness, I remember the perceived agony of having a time-limited head cold.
Should any of us unfortunately develop a terminal condition, there are many forms of medical, emotional, and financial resources available to assist us with coping with an untreatable diagnosis.
Those who face chronic forms of illness aren’t permitted to benefit from either of the above scenarios: we deal with decades of symptoms, often initially enduring misdiagnoses; we are offered a wide array of pharmaceutical interventions that manage, but that do not eliminate, our symptoms; and, despite sometimes needing to receive toxic chemotherapeutic treatments, we’re never going to be told that we no longer have any given medical diagnosis.
Let that fully sink in. I am not sick. I am chronically ill. There is a tremendous difference. Stating that I’m sick means that, although I’m suffering, I’ll eventually recover. Being chronically ill is nothing like this!
Honestly, the best-case scenario is that my symptoms will stabilize, and that I won’t eventually develop a more severe degree of ongoing impairment.