My Chronic Experience

| May 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

Disclaimer: I do not have a chronic illness. I am “able-bodied”, and as far as I know, that won’t change anytime soon. All I know is taken from the accounts of others who do have chronic illnesses and conditions, and I’ll try to be as respectful as possible so as to not talk over them or overshadow their experiences.

Several months ago I injured my neck, which has led to chronic muscle spasms in my neck, shoulders, and back, and a near-constant ache that refuses to go away even after treatments. As someone who has been able-bodied my entire life, without any physical problems, the change was quite a shock to my system. I got a small taste, so to speak, of what life feels like with a chronic illness. My condition is mild, but it still prevents me from doing daily activities such as exercise and lifting things, and it interferes with my sleep. I have special pillows, muscle relaxers for the pain, and physical therapy treatments now.

My roommate, as well as several of my friends and acquaintances, have genuine chronic conditions. I watched their struggles with what empathy I could, but I retained an air of detachment: however hard I tried to relate, there would always be a barrier there because of my lack of experience. I tried my best to listen and help when I could, but there are certain boundaries I could not cross.

Lately I’ve had to accept that at least for now, there are limitations on what I can and cannot do. It’s an odd thing to think about, since I never had to consider it before. Prior to this fall, I could skip exercising all I wanted because I didn’t have the motivation, but it hurts to know now that it’s not possible for me because of physical limitations, not mental ones. For a while, I fell into the self-pitying narrative that people like to spread rumors about with regards to the actual community of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. It’s a touchy subject to talk about, especially with people who experience much worse pain and discomfort than I do on a daily basis.

I’ll be grateful when the pain subsides, but I won’t forget my experience; instead, I want to learn and grow from it, and educate myself about the realities of chronic illness and pain. After all, if I have this much pain on a daily basis, imagine how it must feel to deal with this every day, both on a larger scale and for possibly one’s entire life! While my journey with chronic pain is temporary, and hopefully ending soon, I hope that what I learned and experienced will help me be more empathetic and compassionate.


featured photo credit: DiariVeu – gettyimages – metge via photopin (license)

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Category: featured, Poetry, Prose and Comedy, Reflections, Social Activism

Charlie Scanlan

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Charlie is a journalism major in the College of Communication.

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