Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Have Systemic Disease - An Open Letter of Awareness



I have systemic disease. That means every system of my body is broken in some way. I live with muscular dystrophy, chronic kidney disease, migraines, obstructive sleep apnea, sleep deprivation, musculoskeletal disease, depression, chronic fatigue, severe chronic pain that I never escape, and more.

It's terminal and irreversible, no matter what you think.
I'm not lazy or crazy, no matter what you think.
It has no effect on intelligence, no matter what you think.
I may be tired, but I'm not dumb, no matter what you think.

The next person to tell me to try harder or be positive, call me names, judge my life choices, or look at me like I'm some kind of freak may never fully recover from my reply. That sounds harsh, but I have to do whatever is necessary to protect myself. It took over 30 years to grow a backbone, and nobody's words, actions, or assumptions will take it away from me. I'm still a pushover at times, but I'm figuring this out as best as I can. I'm practically Bambi at birth, both physically and otherwise, awkwardly trying to keep my legs underneath me. It may seem ridiculous to you, but I'm going to stand even if I'm the only one standing.

I thrive in solitude, but I also admit that it is very hard doing this alone, and I am forever grateful to those who are standing with me. Not just today, or this week, or when I'm having a decent day, or when I'm agreeable. The turbulent times of unbearable pain, exhaustion, loneliness, grieving, and anger are when the strength, care, and grace of others are needed most, and I am so thankful for those who rise to the challenge. You don't have to, but you choose to, and I don't take it for granted.

We have awareness days and awareness weeks and awareness ribbons and awareness marathons, and that's all nice. But at the end of the day when the awareness ends, the battle still rages every minute of every day, forever. Those who suffer from chronic illness didn't sign up for this war. There is no pay and there are no benefits. There are no coffee breaks, no vacations, no "back to normal". This is normal. Sorry for the inconvenience, healthy folk, but this is it. No matter what you think. But in spite of our unfortunate high maintenance, I believe most of us don't expect miracles, want special treatment, or demand the unreasonable. I believe most of us only ask for the same kindness, consideration, and respect that anyone else does. Our bodies may have changed, but our value hasn't changed. Last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same.

I wanted to share all of this today in hopes of encouraging the cheering section to keep cheering, the caregivers to keep caring, and most of all, the warriors to keep fighting. Together, we can do this thing.

I love you all, even when I'm cranky. I love you all even when you're cranky too. Now let's group hug and kick this day's ass.