My chronic illness DOES define me

pink butterfly on pink flower

You know that saying:

I won’t let my chronic illness define me!

I get that it’s meant to be inspirational. I just don’t agree. My chronic illness does indeed define me. Fibromyalgia has taken away so much of who and what I used to be, and I’ve had to change accordingly.

Loss and changes

There’s been a lot of loss and grief because of my illness. The biggest loss is the able body. The pain and fatigue limits me in all kinds of ways. Those limits define what I can and cannot do, which in turn define who and what I can be. That’s not to say it’s all bad. It’s just that I’ve had to make changes. There’s no point in denying that this defines me.

The good thing about ‘the new me’ is that I have accepted that I’m chronically ill. The first years after I was diagnosed I tried to fight my way to health. I wanted to beat the illness. I was led to believe that I could, if I only did everything right. Exercise, healthy diet and stress management would cure me. Turns out it didn’t. It still took another few years to accept that fact. I felt that I must have failed somewhere, that it was all on me.

I can’t say that I’ve dealt with all the loss yet. It comes back in waves. Suddenly, I remember that I’ll never go back to my job as a personal trainer, and I really miss it. I miss the clients, the look on their faces when they manage something they didn’t think possible. I miss working with people who share my love of exercise, and I miss having a job to go to.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had to rehome my dog. That is another awful loss. Not just Yuki, but 30 years of being a dog owner. My parents will tell you I wanted a dog from the moment I was born. I miss having a dog companion at home, when I’m out walking, when I’m bedridden. I might get another dog later, but not the kind I’m used to. I’m no longer fit to be an owner of working dog breeds.

I used to write all the time. Stories, poems, blog posts. I can’t do that anymore. My head is too foggy. That’s why I don’t post consistently, and why some of my posts are mostly pictures. I can’t even keep a diary or journal.

These things used to define me. They don’t anymore, because of my illness. Other things define me now: I’m a spoonie, my house is filled with cats, and I can still (thankfully!) read lots of books. My life is slower, which feels just fine. I take the time to appreciate flowers, smells and bird song on my walks. I spend more time taking pictures. The constant stress that haunted me for years is all but gone. I still have hopes and dreams for the future, but they’re not the same as before I became ill.