This week’s Patients for a Moment question is simple and profound at the same time: Who would you be without your illness?
That question is kind of simple, but stunning in its implications. Unlike a lot of the bloggers who responded, I remember a time when I wasn’t sick. I remember being able to wear heels all week or stay up all night reading or go a few days (or weeks) getting little sleep, without any consequences. I remember when my life wasn’t filled with doctors visits, lingering pain and too many pills. I remember when I didn’t have to think about questions like this.
I noticed a lot of the others posted blogs about how they were glad for their illnesses, glad for the compassionate, strong, caring people it made them. Maybe I’m just not to the point they are at with accepting their illnesses and what it’s taken away, but I wouldn’t say I’m glad. I wouldn’t say the good its brought out in me has necessarily been an even trade. There are a lot of things I miss: not worrying about what I eat, not worrying about how much I work or how much medications cost and what I’ll do when my patient co-pay benefits run out on the only thing that seems to make a difference. I miss somethings I’ve never had and am not even sure I want, like the ability to talk about having kids without discussing how pregnancy will affect me and whether, after going through nine months off my medications, I’ll be in any shape to take care of a newborn.
But, I am thankful, too, for what I have been able to accomplish, despite my illness. Even though some days I’m so drained I can barely make it through, even though I’m still recovering from a Thanksgiving to Christmas where I worked every day, with no days off, I’m proud that I work in the field I do, with people out in the world who don’t know what I’m going through and who think my work is great, regardless. I’m good at what I do regardless of my illness. That’s a victory, no matter how small it may seem on days where I can’t even type because my fingers are so swollen, when sitting hurts as much as standing, when my brain is so foggy I can barely string three words together, much less write an article worth reading.
Who would I be without my illness? I’m not really sure that question is even productive, much less truly answerable. I am who I am because of my illness, at least in part. I couldn’t really say who I would be without it.