Chronically Ill and Hopelessly Ambitious.

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‘I am so sorry’ I half sob down the phone. ‘I hate doing this, I really do’. At the other end of the phone is my boss getting the call for the 2nd or 3rd time this month that I cannot make it into the office today. Luckily I have a very understanding employer and I am never lead to believe there is any anger there when I am unable to work.  Still I feel it myself, I curse my broken body and wish I could just be well enough to make it into work.

Before I could even legally work I had already been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Naively as a teenager I couldn’t imagine why or how this illness would affect my career or my working life.

I was always going to be something or someone, I always wanted a career as a teacher, a writer, in marketing or PR. I was the weirdo who enjoyed school work and thoroughly believed that boredom should be classed as a form of torture.

I never stopped for a minute and thought how hard it would be to work for me. Even when I was missing school because I couldn’t physically get out of bed. I always assumed it would get better at least better enough for me to hold down a job.

It has improved from when I was 15, but I can have a flare up at any time and for a number of days or even weeks. Some days I can work through it others I simply can’t. It is not the way I wish it was. I envy those who call in sick once in a blue moon or have the option to ‘pull a sickie’.

I wake up some mornings and wish I could feel fulfilled by a life in at home, now work just me and Philip and Holly or Jeremy Kyle and the other stars of day time TV to keep me company.  That’s just not me.

I remember when a friend a couple of years younger than me was finishing exams and I asked what he’d like to do once he was finished. He answered ‘Go on the dole.’. I was so jealous of his lack of ambition in that moment. I wish I could be content in boredom and living off social welfare. I wished my only ambition was a lack of ambition.

Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of people who cannot work I was one of them for some time. However I think people have the wrong idea about us who are chronically ill. We want to work, we want to have high flying careers and climb the career ladder.

We don’t want to call in sick time and time again each time feeling guilty, anxious and unsure as to how your colleagues and employer must feel.

We want to be a success either keeping the job and status we had before we were ill or gaining that despite the fact we are ill.  We are fighters and it is only when we are physically and mentally unable that we won’t work. Won’t is the wrong word can’t is what it is.

The frustration of knowing that on a good day you can rock your job, you are on top of everything and you are willing and able to work your butt of. But on the bad days your mind can do all that is needed but your body doesn’t want to corporate.

I am lucky to have the Boss I do, I am sure it is frustrating for him too but he would never let me know. Not everyone shares my good fortune. Still, then I would look to other jobs, to alternatives to a more understanding employer or taking a break until you are well enough.

Please don’t lose your ambitions even if you are too sick to work now, that may not always be the case. Don’t give up on your dreams, hopes and ambitions…..but tailor them. Recognises that it may take you longer, it may be a harder road you have to travel but that will make you all the more successful when you get there.

That is what I have to believe to get through it. Today is a bad day, tomorrow I might take over the world. Keep going. Your chronic illness won’t give up and neither should you.

 

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Why it’s important to be Thankful even when you have a Chronic Illness.

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My life changed when I was 15 and it wasn’t something I ever wished for but it happened. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis or RA for short. It meant a lot of horrible things, sleepless nights, pain for the rest of my life, limitations my peers would not experience and lots of visits  to the doctors, needles, medicine and loads of blood tests!

Like I said it wasn’t something anyone would ever wish on themselves or another but it happened and as I have grown older and have accepted my illness I have learnt a little bit about what it gave me.

Not only has my illness made me a strong person who have become a fighter but it has shown me in life how the little things are the most important and family and friends will get you through anything.

Because we feel so isolated, like no one understands our pain and like people judge us we can sometimes forget how much the people we love do for us. Will they ever truly understand if they are not ill themselves? No. Will they often say things that hurt us or make us feel as though we are not doing good enough? Yes. But do they mean to hurt us? Do they mean to make us feel like a lesser person? No.

When someone is ill, everyone thinks how it must be for that person. And I have been there it’s tough and every day of your life will be tough, you will have to fight and your life once you become ill will change. But so will the life of the people around you.

Your partner will have to help more but not only that they will feel helpless at times. When you are curled in a ball crying on the bed in agony they will be in their own discomfort. The person they love is in pain and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. Your children will not be able to play as roughly with you, you won’t be able to go on as many mad nights out with your friends or work as late as you used to. Our illness unfortunately doesn’t just affect us but those around us.

However, there is a light in all this. That even when our problems effect our loved ones, they try to help, they try to understand and they try to not let it affect our relationships.

I have so many people to be thankful for. My mam and dad who took me to hospital appointments and held my hand when I wailed in pain, who sorted my medicine and took time off work to look after me. To my aunts and uncles who not only helped out with the hospital runs, babysitting my siblings when I was stuck at an appointment all day but who also supported my mam and dad emotionally as they worried about my health.

I am thankful for my sister who was just 13 when I was diagnosed, who helped me dress in the morning and take my socks off at night. Who cuddled me as I cried and who always reminds others to slow down and wait for me.

I am thankful for my partner, Aidan who accepted me for my who I am illness and all. Who rubs my back when I’m fighting back the tears and who is patient with me when I struggle with basic daily tasks. Who helps me dress when my hands are too swollen to function and who makes me laugh to try and distract me from my pain.

I am thankful for my brother and father in law who show me their affection in the form of fires and hot cups of tea to keep my bones warm. Who carry my shopping in from the car or open jars for me when I am unable.

I am thankful to my sister in law who is always trying to find ways to help cure me or make me better with natural remedies. I am thankful to my little brother who named me as his Role model because at just 12 he saw what I was going through.

I am thankful to my friends who do all they can to understand my illness and who are the biggest supporters of my blog. They carry my bags when I am too sore and only show understanding when I have to back out of plans. Who make me feel ‘normal’ and don’t treat me as a something that is easily broken.

I am thankful to my little nephews, niece and my littlest sister who make me laugh so much I almost forget about the pain. They get me blankets and give me cuddles when I don’t feel well and ask me questions in a bid to understand why my bones are different to others.

This illness takes so much from you and at times it can be hard to see any light at all. But the love people show you, the care they give you when you are unable to care yourself…people need to stop seeing that as a loss of dignity and instead see it as something beautiful to behold.

Not everyone will understand, and you may lose some people on the way. But those people were not needed in your life if they could only accept you as a healthy person. No one chooses to get sick, no one’s chooses to be in pain. Those that choose to cut you out and who don’t even attempt to understand your new life are not meant to be in that life.

Why not say thanks to those that show you love and compassion. They might not be going through what you are but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their best.

Thanks for reading,

The Girl with the Old Lady Bones.

To the Person Who Thinks I am Lazy

To the person who thinks I am lazy

To the person who thinks I am lazy, this is a letter for you, in the hopes that after reading this you will get a little insight into how that makes me feel. Firstly I must say It is probably not your fault, if I am entirely honest I might have made the same judgements as someone just like me before I was diagnosed. But then again I was a naïve teenager, still learning about the world and the people in it when I was diagnosed.

This is not a post to give out to you or claim that you are a bad person or even to claim that I am never lazy. At the end of the day, I am a human being and from time to time just like you I am lazy. But for the most part just getting through the day takes more energy from me than climbing a mountain might for you.

I know you may read that and think ‘what exaggeration!’ and roll your eyes but it is true. It’s ok that you do not completely understand. In truth I hope you never really do as that would mean you would have to go through the pain and exhaustion I do each day.

This is not a pity party either or a need for sympathy or attention. All people with a chronic illness want is understanding. Even if you cannot truly grasp just how difficult a regular day may be for us we hope that you grasp the fact that we are in fact not lazy. That we want to work, that we want to play with our kids, go on long walks, attend every event we are invited to ….but whilst we want all that, sometimes that is just not realistic on a daily basis.

Those with a chronic illness who are able to work count themselves lucky, those who has an understanding manager and colleagues are even luckier and those that have a family who is supportive feel as though they have hit the jack pot.

A husband who understands why he has to cook the dinner AGAIN because we are in too much pain, a manager who gets that we wish we were at work and knows that we are important to the team despite our struggles, friends who don’t make you feel guilty that you can’t make it out to see them after all, this is all we want.

We are not lazy but rather in too much pain to get of bed, too much pain to get dressed or brush our teeth. We are not lazy but sit at home willing our body to move at ease so we do not have to feel like we have wasted an entire day doing nothing.

But what you and I must come to terms with is that on those occasions we are not being lazy, nor is it a waste of a day doing nothing. It is a day our bodies need to recover, to revive and to get us through the rest of the week. A day that is unpleasant for everyone involved but that means we are re charged and capable of more in the long run.

We are not lazy, we are just broken, we need more time to re charge then others and we wish it was different too. We want to have a good night’s sleep and feel refreshed ready to take on the day. We want to wake up and the only pain and discomfort we feel is a little indigestion or a period cramp.

To the person who thinks I am lazy, I hope you never have to explain yourself like this to anyone.

I am proud of myself and those around me whom smile every day despite the pain they are in. Those who try their best to meet their goals and life a ‘normal’ life. I admire each and every one of you no matter what your chronic illness whether it is much worse than mine or much milder.

Each day is a battle, but you know what sometimes the illness isn’t the biggest battle, instead it is the people who refuse to at least try to understand.

Just remember you cannot always see someone’s pain, but we can see your judgement.

The Frustration

 

 

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 As a chronically ill person, a sufferer of RA or whatever way you want to describe me my life is quite often lived in a bubble of frustration.

 

Frustration at being Ill, frustration when I can’t do something, frustration having to cancel plans, frustration at not being understood or believed & frustration at feeling constantly frustrated. Ironic I know.

 

Since I was 15, I have been in this never ending loop of frustration and sometimes I think frustration is one of the most infuriating emotions.  It can be cured with a cup of tea and chocolate like sadness, or a huge bellowing scream like anger. It’s just there, following you around your daily life hanging over you and in truth it’s exhausting.

 

This blog is about trying to see the positives and realise things could be much worse, don’t let your limits stop you and I still believe all of that. However, it’s also important to be honest and realise that life with RA (and other chronic illnesses too) is not a walk in the park. Far from it and sometimes you have to let yourself be honest, even if people roll their eyes, or call you a whinge bag or think your being dramatic.

 

What if I told you I know you’re not being dramatic? I know that it hurts and I know that the frustration of knowing that it will never not hurt is heartbreakingly infuriating. I also know that whilst you have days like that ,where all you can see is a big black cloud following you around there will also be times where you will laugh so hard you will forget about the pain, even just for a second. There will be times you are so overwhelmed by love, maybe from a parent, a friend or the little people in your life  that the pain will melt away if even just for a few moments.

 

There will be times that you will be so proud of yourself, your partner or your child that the pain will not matter so much so that its barely there.

 

They may only be moments, or minutes or hours but they are precious and they will come. These are the moments you have to think about when the idea of getting out of bed is all too much. They are the moments you have to think about when making a cup of tea feels like climbing a mountain. They are the moments you have to think of when existing has become a struggle.

 

To those reading this without a chronic illness, I probably sound melodramatic and like I am just exaggerating. But anyone who has ever lived with or is still suffering with chronic pain will know that life with a chronic illness means just existing is a struggle. Just sitting on your bed, is painful, breathing is painful, existing is just painful. And we laugh and smile and joke because it makes existing that bit easier, and we go to our rooms or hide in corners to cry because we are embarrassed and besides we don’t want to drag others down.

 

And we can be happy and we can fill content and we can feel sadness that has absolutely nothing to do with our pain just like everyone else can. We are human and we hurt  in other ways but we can also feel total happiness and it’s those moments where we feel vaguely normal that we hold on to that get us through the rest of the time when we are struggling with just being, living, existing.

Rage Against the Button! Fashion & RA.

I hate buttons

From the age of a small child I had an aversion to buttons, not the delicious chocolaty ones but the ones that seemed to be on every type of clothing imaginable.

Don’t get me wrong, I think they are an amazing invention, from back in the day to allow people in and out of their clothes with ease and still covering all the essentials! However even as a child I hated them.

Now as an adult I can’t explain it except that perhaps I knew what was coming down the line, perhaps I had a premonition of sorts! You see, now buttons are not just aesthetically displeasing to me they are the bane of my life! The little ones, with the tiny open holes are the worst. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, especially in your hands I can only guess they have provoked a few angry grunts from at the very least.  

Bending my fingers and trying to twist a tiny round item into a horizontal whole can seem impossible during a flare up. School shirts were the worst when I was first diagnosed. In fact, I got so sick of the struggle each morning I attempted to wear a white T-shirt under my school jumper instead. Sometimes I would get away with other times I wouldn’t.  I was never quite brave enough to tell the teacher why I wasn’t wearing a shirt. The cold hard truth that dressing myself was too painful,  was just too embarrassing for me.  The ONLY people who knew just how bad things were back then were my parents and my amazing sister who would have to dress me practically every day for 6 months of my leaving cert year.

I LOVE LEGGINGS

And it’s not just buttons, I am a fan of leggings! I know , ok they are often described as a sin against fashion but I love them! I don’t wear them instead of pants or anything but I wear them almost every day. Why you ask? Because trying to get jeans or tights on during a flare up or early in the morning is reserved for special occasions. Socks are enough of an ordeal on a regular basis. 

My style consists of at least 90% dresses and leggings. I still like to look pretty but I march to the beat of my own drum and comfort is more important to me. Leggings are lose enough so getting them on doesn’t mean pulling them up step by step like tights or having zips or buttons to zip/close like jeans!

These are things you never even think of when you don’t have something like RA. You can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to wear jeans or why they don’t wear makeup everyday even to work. And why would you, I certainly took these things for granted when I was healthy. 

I have always liked make up, but recently I have feel in love with it. Partially due to having another blog that from time to time trials new beauty products. Whilst I love how much  how confident I feel with a bit of a make up on, sometimes it’s just not worth it.  I would rather go to work with no makeup on and be in top form to get some work done than have a full face on and be in agony because I exhorted myself. Same with my hair, some days it nice and straight and down and maybe even shiny…. then others times it’s up in a bun and to be perfectly honest probably uncombed.

MESSY BUN

Combs/brushes are on buttons side of this war. They don’t want us to look good, or even decent they must have meetings where they get together with toothpaste cartons and medicine caps and think of unique new ways to make our lives just that little bit harder.

Ok, I obviously don’t think my everyday items come to life when I’m sleeping and have epic battles and adventures (That’s just my teddies, Duh!) But there are just some everyday routine things that frustrate me and I’m guessing that goes for most people who have sort of a debilitating illness or disease.

So some days I am going to look like someone who belongs back in the 80’s with my leggings (and I am a sucker for bright clothes). I’ll have a naked face and a hair stuck in a bun. I might be wearing comfortable shoes and maybe even cosy sock in my boots…and I may not look very stylish at all…but I am way more confident in my comfort then if I was wearing Jeans, a blouse, my makeup perfect and my hair an image of perfection. Purely because I also won’t be red eyed and crying.

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To me comfort is stylish, I will most likely never be a trend setter, I will never be the girl who always has her nails done, make up on and hair perfect but I’ll be comfy and when I am comfortable I am happy, fun to be around and laughing which personally I think is the most stylish accessory a girl(or a fella for that matter! ) can wear!

 

5 Things People Might Say When You Tell Them You Have Arthritis.

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Once you tell someone you have arthritis, well they are usually expected to respond. Some don’t know what to say, some say the right thing and some couldn’t say anything worse if they tried. Here are some of the most common responses I got!

  1. “You’re too young to have that”

Most people do not realize that even small children can have arthritis and that two thirds of those diagnosed with arthritis in the world are under 65! Some people may even think that miraculously while you only look like you’re in your 20’s you must somehow remember when the Titanic sank! Just remember to stay calm, it’s not their fault they don’t know everything about your condition. They will learn.

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  1. “You Don’t Look Sick”

People will see you living out your daily life and I find often people say “Oh well you don’t look like there’s anything wrong with you”, I just tell them “You haven’t seen me on a bad day yet!” I just think of it like this if people can’t tell I’m sick I must be doing a pretty good job of getting on with life.

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  1. ‘You can’t do that!’

People may try to tell you that there are things that you can’t do now. Don’t believe them, because only you know what you can’t do! Also try and remember it may seem like they don’t have faith in you or your ability but really they are just looking out for you because they don’t want you to push yourself and get hurt.

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  1. “You Can Do This”

Once again when people tell you that you can still do something once you’ve told them that you can’t, remember that only you know what you can and can’t do. Don’t push yourself to please others. You have to decide what is worth the pain the next morning and what you are physically capable of.  Often they will tell you this by means of supporting you, so while you may want to murder them for saying it, try to understand they just don’t want you to miss out on anything!

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  1. “Oh right, If you need me to help with anything let me know”

Most people don’t really want to know everything there is to know about your condition. They just want to get on with what has to be done, or they don’t see what your condition has to do with your friendship. Most people even offer to help should you need it. So don’t be afraid to tell anyone, its not a big deal to them so it shouldn’t be to you!

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I would love to hear the response you received when you told people about your arthritis or what you said to someone with the condition (or something similar). Comment below or email me at glorialouiseshannon2392@gmail.com , I would love to hear from you!

You Can Do This!

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I stood half way up a small hill looking at Aidan, and the rest of the hill just past him. Aidan and I were on a weekend away to Killarney over the summer and we visited Torc Waterfall. Torc Waterfall was beautiful and if you have ever visited you will know that it really is a lovely place. I was feeling sore and even the 500 metres of rough ground from the car park to the waterfall seemed like it was defeating me.  We had looked at the waterfall, taken some pictures, sat and talked by it and all I could think about was the huge row of steps behind us, which I knew Aidan would want to explore.

In situations like this I often feel like a burden or a kill joy to my friends. It can be tough, not just for me but for my friends too. They want me to be able to take part in activities but they don’t want to see me in pain, whilst at the same time they don’t want to have to miss out just because I have to. Something they don’t know is sometimes I really am okay with that. There has been and will be many more times where I will have to miss out on an activity, and that really is okay. It’s fine because I would rather miss out on something than be in pain for days just because I pushed myself. I have learned to weigh up the situation around me and decide whether something will be worthwhile in the end or not.

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That day was not one of those times though! I really wanted to see what was at the top of those stairs, not just for Aidan but also for me. I braced myself, and took the first step in what looked like a never ending staircase. It’s at times like these I really am grateful for my support network, Aidan being a major part of that. We have been a couple for just over three years and he is really great with regards to my condition. He has always been understanding and supportive since the day I told him.

Aidan is not exactly the sporty type but a large hill or a long walk would do little to scare him. He has a very curious nature and whenever we go anywhere he wants to explore. This means that sometimes I am left telling him to go ahead without me, something he will rarely do. It can be frustrating to watch him look longingly at a long walk way or steep hill and just walk away, both of us leaving unsatisfied. I want him to be able to do all that he can do despite the fact that I am just not up to things like that a lot of the time. I see his brother and his girlfriend play fighting and even messing with airsoft guns, having shooting competitions and I think, “Jesus I can’t even hold the gun never mind shoot it”, and honestly I often feel as though he misses out on a lot because he fell in love with me.

However on that day at the Waterfall Aidan pushed me, but I needed it. It wasn’t actually climbing the stairs that was bothering me as much as not knowing when the stairs would end! I was already feeling sore and tired, what if the stairs went on forever? Obviously that was an irrational thought but when you are there looking at the steps in front of you, you don’t think like that. You just think “I can’t do this!”
The View One

I looked at his face and I saw his belief in me, as corny as that sounds. Knowing that he knew I could do it, I felt like I could. In fact I knew I could. Trust me I still moaned the whole way up, I panted like a dog in heat and I was sweating like a pig but I did it. Slowly mind you, but I made it to the top, I stopped plenty of times and was coached by Aidan but I got to the top. After that, I made it through the whole “yellow trail” which I must point out is the easiest walking trail but I still felt very proud of myself. The views at the higher points of the walk were amazing and though it took a lot of effort on my part and patience on Aid’s part it was definitely worth it.

Yes I have a lifelong illnesses that makes my bones ache but I am lucky that I can still walk, I can still climb. Yes, it is tough but someday I really might not be able to do these things and I am learning that it really is worth at least trying while I still can.  No pain, no gain!

You just have to remember that sometimes “You can do this!” you just have to try a bit harder than the people around which really makes the experience all the better.

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