Monday, March 25, 2019
Overreactions to Chronic Illness
I've noticed as I've re-entered the dating world following my divorce a common trend among those who may be labeled as healthy themselves and have a limited experience of chronic illness - they tend to overreact to my health symptoms. I realize this comes from a place of concern and uncertainty regarding what they should do to help me and I would prefer their concern than for them to dismiss my symptoms. But I can't help but almost laugh to myself at their overreactions all the same.
One partner asked to call an ambulance whenever I wasn't feeling well. Others regularly advised me to see a doctor or go to the ER when I'm ill. They haven't had the experience yet to trust that I know when I need to seek help and when I don't. I imagine they feel helpless as they listen and watch me suffer from my symptoms as well. Those of us with chronic illness have learned our bodies over time and we can tell when professional intervention is necessary and when we can let it slide until the next check up appointment.
For instance, I was having early symptoms of a possible intestinal blockage. My partner encouraged me to go to the doctor. I haven't had a multitude of intestinal blockages but I've had enough to know that seeking medical attention at this stage wasn't necessary as I wasn't even sure I was having an intestinal blockage yet. I was able to still function and I wasn't having any of the for certain signs of an intestinal blockage - just a concern that I could be starting to. Even if I was having an intestinal blockage, I try the various tricks recommended to try to help the intestinal blockage pass before heading to the ER.
From time to time I feel very weak and it is even difficult to walk or talk. I end up staring off into space, not responding to those around me until my energy can be restored. This would send one partner into a scare and he would threaten to call an ambulance. Anyone who knows me knows that one of the last things I want done is for an ambulance to be called for me. It has yet to be necessary and I don't want the expense of an ambulance ride to the hospital when someone could drive me to the hospital if needed. In this case I had to muster all my strength to tell my partner no to an ambulance and walk to the bedroom to rest.
My father has helped provide care to my mother for the majority of their marriage and to me for the majority of my life. He is relatively healthy but through his experiences as a caregiver, he's learned to trust my mother and myself. He acknowledges that he doesn't know exactly how we are feeling or what our tolerances are for pain and other bothersome symptoms. He's resigned himself to follow our lead - he offers assistance and helps us is whatever ways he can - and he waits for us to tell him when enough is enough and we need help obtaining medical intervention. He has told me how helpless he feels when we're ill feeling but he realizes we will let him know what kind of help we need as we know our bodies and limitations better than anyone.
If I were to call the doctor or go to the emergency room every time I felt sick, I would be calling or be there every . single . day. And unfortunately, that's how it is with a lot of us with chronic illness. We don't experience regular reprieves of bothersome symptoms. We feel ill, we are tired, and we are in pain the majority of the time. We have learned what is normal for our bodies and what is not. We have learned to live with symptoms to the best of our abilities and we can tell when those symptoms increase to the point of requiring additional medical intervention. The sad truth is that we are lucky if we have found a way to manage our symptoms for the most part. It may be too much to ask for a cure but management may be a real possibility.
This is my life with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Short Bowel Syndrome. I was diagnosed with FAP as a child, underwent total colectomy at age 9. I experienced life threatening complications resulting in 4 more surgeries that year and developing medical PTSD. I had an ileostomy for 6 years before having it reversed into a straight pull-thru that also resulted in life threatening complications requiring an additional surgery the following year. In 2021, I required my 8th surgery to remove my gall bladder due to gall stones and FAP. This surgery exacerbated my at the time undiagnosed Abdominal Migraine which is now being treated.