the MIRREN LEE

The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Day 11 Chronic Conditions

Posted by themirrenlee on 11/01/2012

Me on a freighter trip arriving in Ensenada Harbor (notice their huge flag!). For 3 weeks I managed to climb dozens of flights of stairs between my cabin and the dining room - a huge achievement!

Chronic conditions.

Whether it’s an illness, an injury or some situational problem, any chronic condition can make your life a living hell.

Do you have one, or know someone who does?

They are the very epitome of an example of it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. Some people withdraw, some express their unhappiness non stop, some stoically put up with their lot, some get depressed, some lash out at everyone around them, and some use their condition as an excuse to not live their life fully.  Obviously, there are many other ways I could list, but you get the idea. The interesting thing from a people watching point of view is simply how people do react to their conditions. The reactions give you an insight into the very depth of their personalities, and reflects on how they handle life in general. The reverse is also true: the way a person acts toward someone with a chronic illness says something about their personality and what to expect of them when faced with life’s problems.

Anyone who has a chronic condition, especially an illness that is not fatal but has no cure, knows what I’m talking about. Anyone else probably doesn’t want to know what I’m talking about! As I’ve said before, chronic illness is boring to people who don’t have it. Chronic pain even more so, with the added bonus of making non sufferers impatient with the sufferer. It’s hard for “outsiders” to remain constantly sympathetic to pain and suffering that they aren’t feeling – the same kind of “compassion fatigue” that affects those being asked to give again and again to global appeals for help.  You can’t blame them for thinking: “WHEN will things get better?” or “WHY don’t things get better?”.

However, it means we who have chronic conditions suffer twice: first with the symptoms of the conditions themselves, and second with the struggle not to feel hurt (and guilty!) at the reactions of those around us, who struggle to give us the sympathy/empathy we need.  Hell, even just understanding, if nothing else, would be a gift! And that includes from our health care practitioners, who are often the least understanding of all.

I treasure those people around me who DO understand, and help me, and give me both sympathy AND empathy.  They’re rare, but I have a few, and I don’t know what I’d do without them.  They have helped to put me in one category of sufferer I haven’t mentioned: the one who never stops believing that there is something more they can do to help themselves get better. The one who never gives up, who hits their wall, stops to take a breath, and then crashes through it again and again. The one who believes there MUST be a reason for the suffering, even when they can’t imagine what that reason could possibly be. Then I remember the times I’ve helped others with their attitudes to their chronic conditions, and think maybe that’s it. Maybe what I go through, all my experiences over 25 years since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia (when it was first called fibrositis), might help others to improve their quality of life.  Maybe my ups and downs, my dozens and dozens of different types of medical/chiropractic/osteopathic/physio/myotherapy/Chinese/remedial massage/acupuncture/sleep therapies/meditation/mind body connection awareness/counselling and etc. etc. etc. techniques, along with endless medication experimenting, will prove useful to others as information of how they affected me, and how they might help fellow sufferers.

So chronic conditions are no different than anything else when it comes to making choices in our lives. Are you going to fight whatever it is you have, and live life to the best of your ability (think of the courage of people like Christopher Reeve, Stephen Hawking, or anyone with a disability), or take the negative path and feel sorry for yourself? Yeah, it sucks, but it is what it is, and if it comforts you, there’s the cliche thought that there’s always someone worse off.  Frida Kahlo got hit by a tram and painted for the rest of her life on her back, Laura Hillenbrand has such acute chronic fatigue that after she wrote “Sea Biscuit” she couldn’t even do a book tour. See the movie “My Left Foot” about Christy Brown and his battle with cerebral palsy – it’s a good insight into the effort that foot and mouth painters go through to draw such beautiful art without the use of their arms and hands.

I write about this tonight because it is part of my new journey this year. I was lucky enough to start the year with a fresh approach to my condition, thanks to new health practitioners, and I am daring to have hope that I’ll be able to fulfill the commitments I’ve set out for myself because I will have more strength and endurance.

I dedicate today’s blog to all the sufferers out there of chronic conditions. Don’t be negative, don’t give up. There is hope. Be like a shark – just keep swimming until you find the help you need to function as best you can.

I’m just swimmin’ …

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