The sheer irony of how some chronically ill individuals often fail to get sick is certainly not lost on me. This is especially true for those of us who have been diagnosed with autoimmune disorders.
Our immune systems are not deficient by any means. In fact, the total opposite is true; those with autoimmune disorders have overly active immune systems. Their immune systems are up-regulated, to put it technically.
The problem with autoimmune disorders occurs when our bodies mistakenly attack themselves as the target. (Talk about being your own worst enemy!)
Self versus non-self recognition is grossly impaired for those with autoimmune diseases. Before I developed MS, I would experience having several colds, in any given season. I would feel absolutely awful, with horrific congestion in my nasal passages; a sore throat; itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; coughing; and a dull headache.
At this point, I have developed three autoimmune disorders. I honestly can’t even remember the last time that I had a severe head cold. I might start to develop symptoms of a cold, but they quickly lose steam.
Even though I have several chronic illnesses, I think about myself as rarely getting sick. For me, being sick means that I have symptoms beyond those baseline symptoms that I have adjusted to having, for decades. It means that I feel worse than usual, but that I know this will be of relatively short duration.
Living with chronic illness is entirely the inverse of the world as experienced by those who are generally healthy. I almost never have a day when I feel truly well. If I do, I cherish it beyond description. I know, all too well, that soon enough the clock will strike midnight. Cinderella’s enchanted coach will simply transform back into an ordinary pumpkin.
Given those rare days of feeling relatively better, but not even close to healthy, I overdo my activities. Because I want to. Because I simply can. At this point, I’ve realized that pushing beyond my illness-imposed limitations will result in dire consequences.
Maybe not immediately, but almost certainly, inevitably, I will “crash.” My overall level of fatigue will transform from severe to absolutely debilitating. I most certainly will develop additional symptoms, too. However, I still rarely get sick, as defined by the majority of individuals who enjoy robust health.