I was once called “Stoic” by my boss when I was working because of the way I got on with my chronic health issues without fuss & was always cheerful, smiling & putting others first. I kept working full time with that stoic attitude & nature until my body physically would no longer let me. Even with a permanent colostomy, Rheumatoid Arthritis, a rare bone disease that has left me with a broken femur that refuses to heal, I am still stoic & happy & positive….on most days!
It is a rare day that sees me crushed but that’s how I felt this morning. The pain in both my legs was unrelenting & even though I have a high pain threshold I just, for a moment, felt a wave of despair flow over me. It wasn’t self pity, it wasn’t even regret, it was despair that arises from chronic debilitating unrelenting pain. On top of that my stoma was in overdrive & I needed to find the strength & even courage to get on my legs, get to the bathroom & shower, deal with the stoma & get dressed for the day. Sounds simple in words but the reality of doing it was anything but simple. It was overwhelming.
I sat on the bed & allowed the tears to flow. Did it help? A little yes. It allowed me to take a deep breathe & pray for the strength I needed to get up & get going. It allowed me to become stoic again as I realised I didn’t want my disabilities to dictate to me. I wanted to celebrate that even though the activity of showering, dealing with my stoma, getting dressed & doing my hair & makeup would take over an hour, I could do it. I did have the ability, just not like I used to & not like many healthy people would have but all the same I could be thankful that I could get up, grab my crutches & walk. I could focus on what I could do.
There will be many people today with chronic diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, bone diseases etc, waking our streets, sitting in work meetings, caring for their children, looking like they have everything under control. Their pain will be invisible to most. The reality is they too would have struggled this morning wondering how they were going to get through the day or even how they were going to make it to the shower like I was. They are stoic & courageous but they probably don’t think they are. They will be trying to fit in to the norm when their own normal is so different to most healthy people.
For those of us battling chronic disease, knowing that we are not alone in that battle is so important. Speaking to others who understand what it is like to wake up day after day with the same pain & the same physical struggle is crucial to keeping strong. I’m so thankful that I have been blessed to administer online support forums & know that I don’t journey alone. Others living with chronic disease have stories that are all unique & their strength of spirit is inspiring & uplifting.
I am not the only one who is stoic!