Chronic Illness 101 – The Basics

Hello and welcome to Chronic Illness 101. A series about how to act, be supportive and ultimately how to understand what life is like for someone with a chronic illness.

Lesson 1 – The Basics 

The best place to start is really to defy chronic illness. Chronic illness is a condition or disease that a person has had for a long period of time. According to the tinterweb which is always right! An illness lasting more than 4 months is considered chronic.

How Many Different Illnesses Are There?

That is like asking how many different species of butterflies are there? Simple answer there a countless forms of chronic illness. A few are

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiacs
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lupus
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic intracranial hypertension.

And many many more. 

How Many People Are Effected By A Chronic Illness?

Putting it bluntly. Far too many if you ask me. With some not even getting proper help from health professionals. I know at least 3 other people who have fibromyalgia which is what I suffer from. And 2 of my bestest friends suffer from chronic conditions. 

What Kind Of Symptoms Are There? 

Each illness has its own set of symptoms, and each person who has the illness can have completely different symptoms entirely.  Some having a list as long as your arm. Ranging from joint and muscular pain to fatigue to cognitive issues.  

It is also possible that some patients may have multiple illnesses at the once. 

Is There A Cure/Treatment?

From what I can tell from my illness and many of the others I mentioned. There is no known cure.  I’ve seen many articles claiming to have discovered a cure for fibromyalgia, from teas to lotions, but the fact that doctors aren’t able to pinpoint exactly what causes the condition….how can there be a cure?  As far as treatment goes, GP’s tend to treat symptoms individually as there isn’t a magical pill that will combat every symptom.  For me I am on antidepressants and pain relief in an attempt to make me deal with the pain better, but the antidepressants are rubbish and the pain relief is no help to man nor beast.  I do know however that there are some doctors who are more understanding who treat their patients more effectively.

How Can I Help Someone Who is Ill?

  1. Ask questions & try to be understanding.  Do your own research into their particular illness.  This will show them that you are interesting in learning about what they are experiencing.
  2. Put yourself in their shoes. Try and imagine what it’s like to live a day in their life. You’d be surprised how the simplest of tasks like showering can be so tiring and debilitating.
  3. Be patient. They may cancel on you a number of times. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to be your friend. If they are able to do something one day it doesn’t mean they will be able to do it again the following day, week or month. Any normally daily activity can zap the energy right out of them and a simple coffee can be exhausting.  
  4. Learn about spoon theory. Christine Miserandino came up with the anecdote when explaining her illness to her friend. Read her article here.  A brief summary is Imagine that a unit of energy as a spoon. Each task a person does on a daily basis uses up a certain amount of energy (spoons). A non ill person can have infinite amounts of energy or an endless supply of spoons. But spoonies only have a finite amount and daily activities such as eating, drinking, showering and even talking can use up some of our spoons. And when all our spoons are gone that’s it no more spoons, no more energy.

If there is something that I haven’t covered in this post and you feel might be important to know as a spoonie or non spoonie let me know in the comments below. Also please share the post with anyone you know who is trying to understand chronic illness.

As always thanks for reading.

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