Fear in Chronic Illness

I often wonder if there was something I did that caused my chronic illness. Did I not take good enough care of myself? Did I not eat right? Too many chemicals and dyes in foods? Not enough vegetables? Too much meat in my diet? I drank milk as a kid. And if it wasn’t that was it deeper? Did I do something hurtful to someone? Is this a punishment of some sort? Or even more profound, did I do something in a past life? Was I a rotten human being who had to pay the price for crimes I don’t even recall? As ridiculous as that might sound, I would bet more than a few of us have considered it.  It’s hard not to consider it when you are facing so many chronic issues and are feeling beaten down by them.

As I maneuver through this thing called chronic illness I am often left with a chilling fear that no one can assuage because we each walk this path in our own unique way, and that is what happens 5, 10, 15 years down the road? I am lucky in many ways, I know that. I know people younger than me whose combination of illnesses has left them in much worse shape and unable to get around as good as I can with my cane. While I am grateful for what my chronic illness has not yet taken from me I fear the future and those things it might take away. There’s no way to predict. Even talking to those I know with the exact same issues, there is no way to know how far it will progress and debilitating it will get. I fear that unknown while trying to remain optimistic and grateful for everything I still have. It is not like I want to dwell on the negative. And I have had people tell me, “Oh, don’t think that way. You’ll cross that road when you get to it.” It sometimes makes me laugh when I hear that because I wonder if it were them would it be so easy?

I’m 44 years old. I have an amazing husband and four, amazing daughters. My husband and I have these dreams for our retirement and the things we’d like to do. On one hand I fantasize about those dreams and how we will achieve them and live them and on the other, I fear they might not ever be realized because I might not be able to. Which naturally progresses to thoughts of, what then? Will my husband love me still if all these things we’ve been working toward, all these dreams we’ve been slowly trying to see realized, are never experienced because I am unable? It’s a foolish fear. I know he is not going to abandon me because things aren’t as we planned. Knowing him he will try to figure out a different way to do things so I can experience everything. But this is one of the fears that eats at your soul when you have a number of chronic issues.

Let’s face it, death comes to us all. But, as humans, we don’t like the idea of death. It is something that we usually avoid until we are faced with it. The intellectual part of our brain understands death is imminent from the day we are born but we are naturally inclined to want to live and want our loved ones to stay with us for as long as they can. This is why there are any number of ways to stay healthy and attempt at living longer. There are diets and vitamins and advice from those who have achieved longevity, but in the end we all die. So, the goal becomes quality of life. Having the best time, we can on earth while we are living. That has been something I’ve recently had difficulty trying to grasp. I’ve always attempted a healthy lifestyle and until my body failed me, I was making good strides in being active. However, since things have gone a little downhill, I have not been able to lose the rest of the weight I have gained over the time of my inactivity. I know that losing another 20lbs would go a long way in helping me out but it doesn’t seem to matter what I tweak in my eating habit, I still can’t lose the weight and, because of my chronic issues, about the only thing I can do without being in ridiculous amounts of pain is yoga. I’m not talking about the Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown either, I’m talking about the Rodney Yee gentle, relaxation type yoga, which is great but not conducive to weight loss. I feel somewhat powerless in giving myself the best outcome in quality and longevity of life because I’m at a natural disadvantage. Not to mention the medications I take, some of which can have the potential to have devastating affects on the body and the fear that these issues have shaved, five or ten years off my life frightens me. I find myself worrying often about the time I have left and I am only 44. That may have seemed old when I was 15, but there have been many things, not to include my own growth, that make me realize that it isn’t old at all. And like most humans, I want time. I can’t help an accident or some random thing that might take me but I feel like I should have some kind of control over how I age and how healthy I can be going into older age. I feel that chronic illness is the huge road block that I can’t get around.

These are a few of the fears I deal with and I am sure others with chronic illness fear. I’m also sure there are other fears I have not covered and I would be very glad to hear any of your fears that you want to share with me. I think opening up a dialogue about these things can help. Sometimes we get stuck in our own way of thinking that it doesn’t allow another avenue of thought. Like when you keep getting a math problem wrong over and over again because you keep doing the same thing wrong. I think I am caught and I think if there are ideas about how I can get some control back and give myself a better outcome and more time, I would be glad to hear it.

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