Chronic illnesses are like Pokemon, only you have no choice but to try and collect them all!
Jokes aside, chronic conditions tend to run in packs, which requires people with them to make modifications to their daily routines. There is so much pressure, both from society and from within, to pass for healthy and able-bodied. Trying to blend in can be exhausting, accepting that you (or your chronically ill friend) has certain limitations is powerful. Keep in mind these 5 things that chronic illness warriors need/do/experience differently!
We Need More Time to Recover (and it often means missing out)
There is this recharging ability that healthy people have that I never noticed until years into my illness – I cannot bounce back like them. This meant that in university I never pulled an all-nighter, no matter how fun the party or stressful the deadline. I have also never spent the night drinking and gone to work the next day.
I literally planned my university drinking around when I had at least a full 24 hours to recover. Getting sick always seemed to come with twice the duration for me than anyone else. Our healing times vary, we will bounce back eventually but it will take longer to recharge to our baseline normal.
We use Cannabis More Frequently (and we aren’t as high as you think)
I don’t think I will ever get used to the judgement-filled stares when I am medicating in the morning. Something about a woman smoking a joint at 7 am fuels assumptions and stigma. Medical cannabis is a valid form of treatment in Canada and has been legal for far longer than adult-use cannabis—even if you only became aware of it recently.
I am not saying all chronically ill people are cannabis patients. In fact, fielding the ‘have you tried cannabis’ question is just as irritating as ‘try yoga/vitamins/fish oil/etc’. That said, if you are a cannabis patient, you are likely using cannabis on a daily basis, which gives a lot of people pause.
People are warming to the idea that cannabis can help with a variety of chronic conditions and even help some people get off addictive pharmaceuticals. There is still a long way to go unfortunately to normalize medical cannabis use. The comparisons of alcohol and cannabis don’t help—sure if you are trying to sell your parents on you occasionally smoking a joint with your friends comparing it to a glass of a wine helps.
But if you are starting every morning with your vape and some cannabis oil it can start concerning even well meaning loved ones. Many medical patients are authorized to use multiple grams a day, and consume it in oils, capsules, and dried flower.
We Can Take a Little Longer to Answer Texts (and it’s not because we don’t love you)
Honestly the guilt of not being the friend who ‘always answers her phone, no matter the time of night’ is so real.
If I get a text after taking my Lyrica I guarantee I won’t remember to respond. It sometimes takes me a day or two to get back to people, if I am in the middle of a flare it’s more like 4-5 days. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, am too busy, or not interested in helping/catching up.
What it means is that multiple chronic illnesses is kind of like having multiple children. It is exhausting, distracting and just when you think you’re on it they throw you a curve ball. Our days are spent doing all the things healthy people do and taking care of our chronic conditions—sometimes there is simply nothing left.
Some of Us Need Mobility Aids and Physical Accommodations (and some of us don’t)
Here’s a secret – there is more than one way to be disabled. My heart breaks every time I see a person who is not in a wheelchair get harassed for using a handicap spot with their government issued pass. I personally have experienced harassment for using mobility aids one day, but not needing them the next.
The irony would be kind of hilarious, if it wasn’t so damn unfair. People are always worried that we are faking our symptoms to take advantage of some lucrative disability perks ableds don’t have access to (psa—we don’t).
We are more Sensitive during Seasonal Changes and Shifts in Weather
I’m not talking about the dreaded seasonal cold or allergies here. I’m talking about flares in headaches, cognitive issues, dizziness, trouble sleeping, increased pain, mental health declines, and more dependent on your condition.
Many individuals with chronic illness experience an increase in their symptoms every time the weather changes. Seasonal shifts can render many unable to complete typical daily tasks. These are great time to double down on compassion and check in on your sick loved ones.
How to Help…
Please know that there are conditions you can’t see. Incurable illnesses exist and we are forced to live with them, often without many answers or options. If you smell weed in the early morning, suppress your dirty looks and snap assumptions.
Don’t presume someone is lying about being sick if they have a mobility aid one day but not the next. In addition let us be more compassionate of slow walkers, that ‘always sick’ employee, the friend who can’t do stairs, or doesn’t have the energy for big outings. When in doubt, simply lean on the side of compassion.