Living with ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia, Lyme disease or other such chronic illness, can take so much from us. It causes us to feel inadequate and not good enough – in numerous ways.
We lose so much of our independence – from going out alone to being able to drive at all. Many living bed bound or house bound – feeling so isolated and lonely.
We lose positions and careers that we loved – adding to our grief, sadness, and sense of self-worth.
We lose our place in society, as well as with family and friends. We miss out on family events, parties, holidays, and more. While many around us never see this pain, it's ever present with us.
We lose confidence in doing simple tasks, such as taking a walk, cooking or baking, driving, speaking out for ourselves, trying new things, taking care of our finances, and more.
We lose that simple peacefulness of "just being" – never feeling that quiet calm, we once knew before illness walked into our lives.
Often times, we feel defenselessness. We feel as if we're bare skin, exposed to all that surrounds us – as if we have no protective barrier – physically or emotionally.
Such loss of self-confidence and independence can lead to anxiety, fear, and/or depression. This we bear in addition to all the many physical symptoms of illness.
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Our type of illness is truly a "thief of dreams" and emotionally painful beyond proper words of description. We don't require sympathy but we do need understanding (two very different things).
Chronic illness is traumatizing, to say the least. Yet, our being ill isn't a true reflection as to who we are. However, we may still feel this type of deep pain within our heart and very being.
We are not our illness and we must give ourselves credit for how we've learned to maneuver down a difficult path. Not everyone can change gears in mid-stream and still survive with such grace.
To walk this path daily requires courage beyond measure, so never think yourself "less than." Know you're strong, even when you don't feel you are. Know you're brave, even when you don't feel you are. Carry that truth with you, each and every day – knowing that many incredible people walk this journey alongside you – are surviving alongside you – understand your struggle as well as rejoice in your triumphs.
May our hands join together in spirit – across the miles – for together we're truly made stronger.
May each of us find new ways to create, dream, imagine, and live beyond the confines of our illness.
Clarissa Shepherd is founder of the uplifting Fellow Travelers: Support and Chat (ME/CFS/FM) online Facebook support group and author of the book of natural healing: Find Your Way: A Guide to Healing While Living With Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome and Fibromyalgia