There has been so much pressure on me. Self-imposed undeniably. Having a chronic illness, living with it, growing alongside it as I entered into adulthood, changed the way I perceived, behaved and accepted life. As a child I had tendencies towards perfectionism, only so far as ‘wanting to get it right’. Typical of many children, I went the way of giving up and just finishing the task, leaving it forevermore at a complete stage without anxiously revising until it was perfect. Apparently this is a thing, children dealing with pressure in this way.
The pressure of finishing any task is immense when you have a chronic illness. The Spoon Theory is a Truth and has spread and stayed True to this day for that very reason. If you want to know what I lived with in the early days, Australian’s can identify Ross River Virus. I have had that and it is on par with my health. The pressure of simply surviving is depressing. And I don’t mean depressing like ‘that book was so depressing to read’ or ‘she is so depressing to talk to’. I mean actually invoking of the mental illness depression. Imagine living with an illness that makes you wish you were that whole lot less alive.
One thing I have learned in this experience, by the way is you should not be flippant with words. The first two ‘depressing’ examples SHOULD NOT exist. Just as you cannot say something is gay because you don’t like it, or it is noticeably effeminate. My housemate and I would joke at times a few years back, if something was mortifying, horrific or painful we would say ‘kill myself’ about it. It didn’t last long, because I soon developed a terrifying level of depression, completely relative to the silent and surprising growth in my brain. As it got bigger I had the peace of mind to know that jokes about killing myself weren’t wise for a family who was on watch around me. The kind of pressure that comes from monitoring your language, even in jest, as well as your health and treatments was a suffocating type completely new to me. I was scared and that put even more pressure on me to be open and get it right.
When you are sick, people know what to expect, or they come to. The pressure to perform wanes as their expectations of you decrease and you know that even if they are interested, they try not to approach you. They don’t want to stress you out. When you become well, or pass through your remission phases of wellness, the block out curtains open. The sun shines through and it’s like the sunny blue skied morning after a stormy 2016 (because it rained basically all of that year). You realise all these things you can do, all the tasks left half-finished and all the promises you swore you’d keep. The pressure of making a list and seeing how behind you are is not so bad this time, it is a joy that you have the opportunity to get back to YOU and show everyone how well you are doing.
Not that it lasts long. Pick the first tasks and tick them off on your fingers as you go. If you make it to five I’ll give you a chunky Kit Kat Bar. You know the one I’m talking about. I say it sincerely but you can see the glint in my eye. The challenge. We both know how hard the last few will be and this is only the first hand.
That is what it means to be chronically unwell. The mere act of bouncing back puts you in the sick box once more. It wipes out your clean slate. Oops. Sorry. Maybe you can try again tomorrow? Next week? Next year?