Expectations with a chronic illness diagnosis
I was a healthy person all my life. I had always eaten a healthy diet so it made some sense to me that trying this diet or cutting out sugar or losing weight or whatever was touted as the latest culprit would help me get rid of what ailed me. This went on for years. It was a long and drawn out bargaining with myself... If I tried this I would get better and so I went to dietitians, hospital obesity clinics and cutting edge allergy clinics, read many health books and tried many eating plans. I had good willpower but nothing stopped the fatigue, the stiffness and the muscle pain very much. Plus I could not lose weight and feelings of worthlessness crept in.
Then there was exercise - surely this must help. But alas no, the fatigue on attempting walking or swimming or biking was too great. This was disconcerting, to say the least, as I had always been fit and had been a ballet dancer and dance teacher for many years. Then I tried pilates and also yoga which many people told me was so good for them but for me it was just a world of humiliating pain as things I could previously do, like standing up from the floor, became more and more difficult. My muscle tone did not improve and neither did I build up strength.
Self management is considered an essential part of chronic illness by doctors. This is probably difficult for most people in chronic pain or those with other ongoing conditions as we feel overwhelmed especially early on. I think it took quite a while - years even - for me to accept that this chronic illness was here to stay and that this doctor or that new medication was not going to take it away. It was only when I accepted that this was my new reality that I could begin to improve small things in my life and look after myself.
This set off a new bout of depression and grieving for the life I use to have and all the things I could no longer do like going out dancing, or going for long bush walks. Also you become mentally tired of always thinking about the disease and thinking of ways to help yourself, reading and researching. And you are just plain tired - all the time. I think there was a period of stagnating and waiting to have the mental fortitude to begin again.
(Brain fog has set in now due to all this thinking, and I will continue this saga about my expectations in a later post)
The losses and the sadness they cause never go away completely - I think they are just now accepted as part of my new normal. Having an online community of people who understand is a great comfort.