I’m sure anyone with a chronic illness has heard the phrase “you are always ill” spouted at you as though you’re doing it on purpose or perhaps, “you should do something about that,” as though you don’t already. I think it is hard for people who don’t have one to understand sometimes and in turn I understand why. The concept of feeling ill most of the time doesn’t quite compute if you don’t live with it. I’ve been called boring more times than I can count because I have to conserve energy for the most important things in my life. I’ll go home early from nights out just because I don’t have the energy to waste if I’m not 100% enjoying it. I’d rather keep that energy for a seminar the next day.
However, when I first started university, those people who can dance all night made me jealous. I hated that I couldn’t do that, I hated that I was told to “just try a little harder” as though that would work. My body just can’t handle it, and those kinds of negative thoughts filtered into a whole new realm of body hate. Jealousy was the main emotion I had to fight. I remember I couldn’t do P.E at school without embarrassingly collapsing so I ended up not doing it. I wanted to scream at those people who skipped it because they didn’t like it. I wanted to tell them they were ungrateful because they had bodies that worked and mine didn’t. I didn’t. I knew it wasn’t fair of me to feel that way.
I had body image issues from a young age and not being able to exercise took a serious toll. I wanted to be fit and I wanted to be healthy but I felt trapped in a hole of illness that I couldn’t escape. It was easy to hate my body. I wanted to lose weight but I couldn’t because I was too ill. That is how eating became my main form of control; the only thing I could control. The scariest thing for me to come to terms with was the fact that my illness is ultimately uncontrollable. As a control freak, that has always been a source of stress to me. I wake up in the morning and just settle into seeing how my body is feeling because I will never know the night before. I just pray I’m feeling well enough to go about my daily life.
My biggest fear was that I would one day end up completely alone. I feared that friends could only cope with me missing things for so long until they moved on or thought I was being difficult. I feared that partners could only take so much until they wanted to be with the fun girl who could do all the things I couldn’t. Those were some of the darkest parts of my thoughts, which I tried to dispel. I never judged anyone else for having an illness, and yet I judged myself harsher than anybody could.
The toughest part was simply that I wanted to like my body. I would often try to remind myself that my brain, my personality, my talents all come from my body as well. It is a scientific way to look at it but it helped. It helped me not to have a separate body and soul. To me, I simply am my body and it is everything I have. I love my hands so I can draw, my vocal chords so I can sing, my eyes so I can see. I now remind myself that I like who I am and that I don’t want to be someone else. That everyone has issues even if you don’t see them or hear about them. My favourite Stephen Hawking quote sums up my mantra perfectly: “However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there is life, there is hope.”