I came across the online campaign Suffering the Silence through this PBS article and immediately knew that I wanted to participate. It’s an awesome movement that encourages people with chronic illness to share their stories. I’d highly recommend browsing the Instagram and Twitter hashtag.
Scrolling through the pictures, I have found it so encouraging to see other young people discussing the hardest parts of chronic illness. These diseases can be incredibly isolating. And when I see people with multiple diseases, and read the things they’re saying, my spirit lifts a little. I’m reminded that I’m not alone.
I haven’t talked much on this blog about my recent diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes. It’s been interesting. It sucks, of course.
But I have been thinking about the strange way my chronic illnesses have come. My little sister, Laura, was diagnosed with T1 Diabetes when she was thirteen. The process was crazy, from the nurse in the ER who informed my mom Laura had anorexia and told her to go somewhere else (when Laura was literally starving to death because her blood sugar was so high) to eye surgeries so unusual that they took pictures to put in medical textbooks.
I was about 14/15 during all this. My own health troubles started when I was 17, and I took strength from Laura’s experience. Her diabetes taught me how to live with RA.
Strangely, now my RA is teaching me how to live with my diabetes. Shots don’t bother me because I’ve been on HUMIRA before (which is basically burning poison in a syringe). Insulin is easy peasy comparatively!
There are lots of ups and downs. There are good days and there are hard days. There is a lot of counseling. (Everyone who has a chronic illness needs a counselor. Period.)
I don’t know if I’m saintly enough to say I’m grateful for all this. But my chronic illness makes life more vivid. It gives me boundaries. It is a painful, terrible, beautiful blessing.
My original post from Instagram:
People often say I am brave. But brave is just another label, a side effect or symptom. When I am going in for my third hand surgery, or when I give myself a shot, or when I too fatigued to get out of bed, I am not being brave. I am existing. I am doing what I can to live the life I have. If bravery is simple survival, I would rather be something harder. I would rather be joyful. Existing happens, easy or not. But the pursuit of joy? That’s the thing that often feels impossible.