I think it's time to talk about this subject. I have many sweet friends who are dealing not only with toddlers, children, activities, and diapers, but also with illness and pain. Probably many people you know are coping with a hidden illness. Hidden illnesses or conditions are the diagnoses you can't see. A lot of people truly just don't like to sound like they are complaining, so they don't talk about their illness at all. Some people downplay their suffering, because, unfortunately, other people tend to doubt symptoms they can't see. Given that I am raising children with sometimes invisible symptoms, I have a soft heart for those that are undertaking parenting while dealing with a chronic illness.
Everyone gets sick sometimes, and if you are the mom who is sick, you know it is next to impossible to take the day off. I had the flu (Flu Season? Still?) the month of March (like the whole month), and I wrote about having backup plans for everyone to have on standby so others could step in and help, if it came down to it. Don't take for granted that your spouse automatically knows what to do, just because you live together; mine didn't and we've been together over twenty years! Bless him, he was like, “What?! You do that?! How often?! When!?” Talk about a comedy of errors. We are still married, by the way, and we’re always better for those tough moments, but lesson learned: write down the medication schedule, if nothing else.
So, I have friends that are struggling with different ailments such as: lupus, multiple sclerosis, migraines, scleroderma, depression, fibromyalgia. The list can go on, and on. These aren't illnesses that you always see. These people usually suffer in silence. I found out just recently that one of my friends had been dealing with multiple sclerosis for a few years only because I saw her out, limping with a cane one day. Even still, she was saying things like, “It's no big deal, it only happens sometimes.” Later in the year someone was complaining about how forgetful said friend was, and how she was always sick. As gently as I could, I remarked, “Well, yeah. You know she has multiple sclerosis, right?” So? What's that? As if that is any excuse.
Friends, we are better humans when we are building one another up, rather than tearing each other down. First off, don't be so quick to judge something (such as who are different than ourselves. When we (humans) seek to understand each other, instead of complaining about one another, the world is simply a better place. Invisible diseases (or conditions) hurt. Usually, they hurt a lot. Migraines are debilitating. MS causes numbness and paralysis. Scleroderma makes the skin ache. Depression, anxiety, and all the obsessive compulsive disorders are extremely hard to deal with, and to live with. Just trying to get everyone in the family up, fed, dressed and presentable is hard when you're feeling good. Imagine having to accomplish all that while having a pounding headache, or when you can't feel your legs, or when your skin feels like sandpaper if someone brushes up against you.
So, when you see your forgetful, sick friend out and about, at Target or the grocery store, tell her she looks beautiful and be kind. Tell her it's great to see her up and out. You never know what it took for her to get out of the house.
Everyone is dealing with something.
When the fibromyalgia diagnosis first started showing up across the country, I was a young, know-it-all-hot-shot nurse. I would roll my eyes and mutter under my breath, “drug seeker” whenever I was assigned a fibro patient. Don't misunderstand- I loved nursing, and my patients and I treated everyone with respect, compassion, and dignity. But you can't see fibromyalgia, and pain is subjective. I couldn't really wrap my brain around it, and back then, the medical community didn't have a lot of information or research to effectively treat fibromyalgia. Pain medicine was the treatment of choice. When you spend a year as a nurse on a med-surg floor, inevitably you have a lot of drug-seeking patients, and when you are new and young and you know everything, judgement happens.
we all have our dog days:)
Fast forward fifteen or so years… One day I wake up not feeling great, again, and I start thinking about it, and I'm wondering why am I having so many headaches? What is this constant pain on my breast bone? Why are my hips burning, and achy, and what is up with the leg pain? One symptom blends into another, time goes by, then I started having trouble sleeping, even though I was always tired. I was really tired, and always achy, and constantly getting sick. So, when, one day, at five o'clock in the afternoon as I was starting to put the kids to bed, so I could just go lie down and rest, I stopped myself. I started to do some research, and decided to see some new physicians. Guess what? Welcome to the club. It's fibromyalgia. And it hurts. For real.
It's funny how things work out sometimes.
Our circumstances can define us if we let them. I don't really accept that, though, for me or my family. Yes, of course, some things do change, have changed, and will continue to change, but illness doesn’t define me- or the family. For us, we have had to rearrange some schedules, say no to some activities, and we need to remain flexible. We have slow days, for sure. Thank goodness we homeschool, so pajama days are blessings. Everyone pitches in to help out- not always willingly- but they do. Cleaning is a group activity. Cooking is what I like to call “collaborative." Schwans, DiGiorno, and Green Giant are my friends. Sometimes, frozen food is where it's at. Everyone knows they can turn on the oven and bake a meal. The crockpot is good for easy meals, too. We definitely don't schedule things for early in the morning. Quiet time is absolutely a must. I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from friends, and I will always share that advice with others. The best advice I have though, is to be kind to yourself. Some days will be just fine, but when the days come that are painful, or exhausting, just remember that your body is different than it used to be, and it is ok to slow down and say no to extras. And pay attention to your nutrition. Frozen meals are better than McDonalds, and vegetables are important. Be aware. Be kind. Don’t judge. Keep calm. Parent on!