Having a chronic illness and being unwell a lot makes you feel boring.
My chronic illness is crohn’s disease.
It can go a bit like this.
Somebody asks, “how are you?”
You feel pretty bad. Your belly hurts intermittently, your energy has gone AWOL, your medication’s long list of side effects includes blindness (according to the leaflet?!) and life feels all fuzzy around the edges. You’ve been doing stuff, and trying to stay positive, but it’s difficult sometimes.
Do you respond:
B: I feel pretty bad to be honest, but I did this cool thing ________ last week. (Fill in your own cool thing).
C: Change the subject.
D: Throw yourself onto the ground, wailing and sobbing.
The thing with having a chronic illness is you can feel that every time you chat with a lovely friend/colleague/auntie/husband/wife, you’re reporting on the thing that feels most pressing, which no matter how many cool things you’ve done, is sometimes the illness, just because it’s affecting your everyday so it’s right there at the top of your thoughts. Plus sometimes you’ve had to cancel good things because you’re ill, and can’t even contemplate others.
“Party? Does it involve wearing pyjamas and reading books under a quilt? Cup of tea and a walk by the sea? Then sure, that sounds amazing! Tequilas until 2am? Maybe not this time…”
So, your inner BORING alarm goes off as you’re speaking, and you feel like your illness is defining you, that’s all you have to share.
The late great philosophical and spiritual author Dr Wayne Dyer says, in one of his podcasts (I forget which, I’ve listened to a lot) that if you say you’re fine when people ask, you can programme yourself to feel better. I agree that adopting a happy attitude can make it happen for real. I wouldn’t divulge ALL the details about my crohn’s disease to the customer service person I ring to upgrade my phone for example. I’ll just smile and say I’m fine to the lollipop lady or café staff I see most days. And while I might share more with friends who also have a chronic illness than I would with others, I wouldn’t burden anybody with an hour-long verbal symptom download or pro-longed nitty-gritty.
But balanced sharing? I think that’s healthy.
Marc and Angel, personal development bloggers, say…
‘It’s not who’s standing beside you during good times, but the ones who stick by you through tough times that are your true friends.’
So, unless you’ve gone for option D and you’re on the floor of a city centre cafe wailing and sobbing, your loved ones probably won’t mind you sharing how you actually feel.
Chronic illness, although sometimes feels endlessly frustrating, is just one part of a sufferer’s life. You might have been snowboarding every year for the last twenty, be a tropical fish expert, have a wonderful cabbage patch doll collection, or be an amazing artist. Share that stuff. We aren’t boring! And share some of your illness stuff too. We still aren’t boring!