A chronic illness is not the same as a broken bone. Sounds obvious – - but have you ever thought about how they’re different?
I’ve broken a few bones in the past few years. And I’m always struck by the fact that although my body hurts with both, there are some really big differences between illness and injury.
First, a chronic illness diagnosis is completely overwhelming. You haven’t got a clue what this means for you — unless, of course, you’ve already been living with a different disease. No one can predict what the course of the disease will be for you – how sick you’ll get with it or the timing.
But break a bone and any good orthopedist can give you a window of time for the healing. Even friends who have had knee replacements can get a pretty realistic estimate of the healing process and time.
When I broke a few ribs and bruised various parts of my body in a bad fall this week, I knew the ribs and bruises would heal. It was clear what was wrong and how to treat it. It might take weeks,even months for the pain to go away. But it will and I will return to my “normal” state.
What a difference from all the chronic stuff I’ve lived with – - the nerve pain and bad balance (multiple sclerosis), the dry eyes that scratches my corneas (Sjogren’s) , the severe sinusitis that gives me brutal headaches (allergies) . Or the horrible ulcerative colitis that left me unable to leave a bathroom safely or get out of bed. When these diseases “flare”, there’s no way to guess how severe the symptoms might become nor if it will even get better this time. Nor can anyone predict if I will develop new and even more disabling symptoms that come with these diseases.
Living with broken bones disrupts your life temporarily. Living with unpredictable and disabling symptoms can be a formidable challenge -they influence every plan you make, disrupt your activities and affect your mood.
I’ve always found that work, in whatever way I can do it, eases the loss and helps me live with the pain. So do loving relationships, a delicious meal, a beautiful sunset, the hug of my child.