People with chronic illness know that it’s life-changing. I got sick about a year ago, and I had to learn how to live with it. (I don’t want to say too much, but my illness deals with my autonomic nervous system.) What I can do and how much I can do are more limited.
When I first got sick, all I wanted to do was forget my problems and pretend they didn’t exist. But that only works to an extent, and it didn’t help me get any better. It’s improved now, but I still struggle with it most days. It’s hard, but writing has helped me cope and push through. It helps me now too, and I can’t imagine where I would be without it.
For some resources for chronic illness, click here.
1. Sense of Control
When I got sick, it felt like the reins of my life were snatched from my hands. For the first three weeks, I sat on the sofa playing video games because my brain was so foggy and scrambled I couldn’t do anything productive. I was also dizzy, unsteady, and nauseated. I’d feel better in the evenings, but by the next morning, I’d feel sick again. It was a vicious cycle that I had no control over.
I didn’t return to writing for a while, mostly because I couldn’t focus long enough to do so. I didn’t start seriously writing again until months later. But when I did, it was cathartic. When I write, it’s like I’m playing God; I control who lives and dies, if someone experiences a tragic event, if the world blows up and leaves nothing but dust behind. I hold the reins, and nobody can take them from me. It feels like I’m taking a piece of my life back.
I found a great book following a character with a chronic illness called One for All. I highly recommend it!
2. Distraction from Chronic Illness
I wasn’t writing a lot for the first few months of my illness. But I always thought about my characters and my world, weaving together stories and scenarios too incoherent to put on a page. My imagination served as a distraction, a way to get my mind off of my illness and onto something else. There were times when I had to focus on my illness, where I had no choice except to think of it. But writing in my mind gave me a chance to breathe.
Another perk was that imagining these scenarios made me want to write. I was excited to get back to writing when I could, giving me something to look forward to in a future that was so uncertain. With chronic illness, it’s so easy to feel depressed and like nothing will ever get better. It’s easy to think that everything sucks, nothing will ever go right, and life is over. Writing gave me hope when I needed it the most.
3. Something to Do
My body can’t do everything it used to. I can’t do much strenuous physical activity anymore without my body protesting (usually by making me lightheaded and dizzy). Even on my good days, I have to take more breaks when doing anything physical. I have to rest a lot on my bad days, and I would feel useless, even now.
Writing is something I can do when my body refuses to let me do anything physical. (I’m resting as I write this.) Writing doesn’t care where I do it, whether it’s on a piece of paper, in a journal, on my computer, on my phone, etc. I can write while standing, moving, or sitting. I write every day, and one of the best parts is that I don’t have to have a backup plan in case I have a bad illness day, because I can write while letting my body rest.
This was a game changer for me since all I did for a while was play video games. I had fun, but I felt stagnated and that I was wasting time. But now, if I need to rest, I can spend that time writing. It gave me a purpose again, and I felt better about myself and my life. Having a chronic illness suddenly didn’t feel as heavy anymore.
For books that get chronic illness right, click here.
I have good and bad days, but I have learned to live with my chronic illness. My life is mostly normal; I still do a lot of activities I did before, except I’m much more mindful of my body and how I feel. To anyone who is struggling: you are not alone, and I hope you feel better and have all the support you need.
For more on chronic illness, click here.