For those who suffer from chronic illness, you know all too well that life is far from normal and will probably never be normal again. The way I see it is that life with chronic illness is like climbing mountains. Some are steeper than others, and but you learn to climb each and every mountain the more you practice. Some of the mountains are easy to climb and some take a lot of you to climb. The problem is that the mountains (are out of a Sci-Fi movie) will keep getting higher so you can never really conquer them. Life with chronic illness is similar; it can be easy at times and it can be harder at other times and it only gets harder, never easier.
The effect that chronic illness has on our lives, and the lives of those we love, is life altering to say the least. It can be confusing and you never know what to expect. The only thing that we ever learn is that the path we choose will influence the quality of our life and that we must be wise and prudent in order to survive. Part of the path we take involves understanding and learning about our illnesses. Another part involves lifestyle changes and accepting that those changes are imperative to having more good days than bad. Probably the most difficult and important part of our lives with chronic illness is the emotional rollercoaster and without balance and sensibility, we can never learn to live with the challenges.
With our emotional rollercoaster, we learn that humor is a must. Let’s face it – Chronic illness is depressing because it involves pain, fatigue, loss of impairment, medical testing and doctor visits. There is nothing fun or humorous there. Being sick all the time means you mourn everyday. Where is the humor in that? Let me just say that you will find humor in situations you never imagined you would.
Over the weekend (as I commented over at Terry’s blog), I found myself reminded of the clumsiness that Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia have brought to my life. Apparently, I save my most awkward and clumsy moments for public places. I was at the library looking for books for my upcoming paper for my Family Law course and I had my toddler in his stroller. While I was locating books, he was throwing books left and right. Once I had found the books I was looking for, I started picking up the books he had pulled and thrown. I had about five books maybe in a stack and proceeded to pick them up and in the process tripped over my own feet. (Did you hear the thud because I sure did? Can you tell my middle name is not Grace?) Well, when I tried to get up, I caught my right foot between two shelves and went for a second fall/trip-whatever you want to call it. Per the usual, I got myself up, dusted my clothes off, retained my dignity, and moved forward. Of course, I decided to leave the books for the professionals to put away. Meanwhile, my toddler was laughing because he thought I was trying to be funny. So, I chuckled and hoped that no one saw me. Hopefully, there weren’t any security cameras in the vicinity or else, I might just end up on one those corny home video shows.
Later in the evening, two things occurred to me. One is that I am a complete and utter klutz and two, humor can be found in the strangest of places when you live with chronic illness. Since RA and FMS, I am a lot clumsier than I have ever been and (wait there is more!) I should be more careful considering I have literally turned into a clown. When I first started taking Lyrica for my FMS, it made me dizzy (it occurred to me that the room was always spinning or that the walls were moving – your pick). I would stop in my tracks and wonder whether I was going insane. (I eventually stopped asking people if they felt the ground shaking or the room spinning.) Needless to say, I am glad the spinning stopped and that my husband did not check me into an asylum.
Another thing that I find to be difficult is that sometimes the stupidest things come out of my mouth or that I am mumbling at times and wishing the right words would just come out of my mouth. (Spit it out already!) I have learned to keep my mouth shut when those moments arise and for the times that I don’t, I later laugh at the things that I have said. For those of you who are wondering how much longer you will have to put up with your babbling self, it’s permanent, but you will learn when to keep your mouth shut and wait for the confusion to go way. Do you know how many times I have forgotten which way I am going or what I was doing no matter how repetitive the task was? I have learned to laugh at myself at the worst possible moments or else I would go insane.
I often compliment myself on the ability to laugh when I want to cry regardless of the challenge. The only advice that I can offer to those of you who don’t know what more your health can throw at you is to keep your chin up no matter how much it hurts to hold it there. You can’t control your health or what your disease does to your body, but you can control your attitude and response. I often joke about what a complete klutz I have become, and amongst family and friends, I can comment on my new found clumsiness by saying something like, “I used to be nice to look at, but now thanks to RA and FMS, I am just fun to watch” at precisely the right moment. However, if you take your cell phone out to video tape me, you will know me on a bad day and that isn’t very pleasant (just ask my poor husband).
Of course, each of us has a choice in how we feel. For me, I know that even with chronic illness and pain, laughter is there and it is the only way to keep sane. We just have to know when to laugh and when to cry because well, crying is okay too.
Let me know about the humor that your health has brought to your life. Come on! I will laugh at yours if you laugh at mine!