When you have a chronic condition, it borders on amazing, the amount of paraphernalia you have to take with you whenever you leave home.
I have to take snacks in case I can’t get to food exactly when I need it. I carry around an emergency shot/dose with needle in case—well, in case there’s an emergency. I need my pills. Then there’s the sugar-free chocolate if I want to have something to eat while everyone else is eating dessert, the perfectly proportioned snacks for in-between meals, the carbonated, caffeine-free, sugar-free drink for when I have to ride in the backseat or a car since I get very motion sick, the sugar-free gum or mints in case I get nauseated, the medical bracelet I always have to wear, the glucose tablets in case I have a blood-sugar low, and of course, all the normal stuff people carry around, like a wallet and car keys. I also carry around my inhaler. Being allergic to dust mites and mold, I can walk glibly into a store and if it has antiques, all of a sudden I find I’m having trouble breathing.
It’s annoying to do all you have to do to get out there into the world and be with people, and sometimes it doesn’t feel worth the effort. Especially if you end up talking with someone who doesn’t get your condition at all and makes those really helpful comments like, “So you don’t have a diagnosis yet?” with that tone that makes it clear they think you’re making all of this up.
You can smack mosquitoes that get under your skin, but not people, so sometimes we just want to give up and stay home and become a hermit. But avoiding people and events is not healthy, and hey, we’re already unhealthy, so we don’t need to add anything more.
Part of the problem is risk. What if we have a flare-up at someone else’s house? What if we commit to some event and end up falling apart right in front of everybody?
We have a choice to make on how much we will avoid in order to make life safer or easier for ourselves. It is definitely wise not to overdo it just to prove we’re not really sick after all. We are sick, so it’s silly trying to prove we aren’t, however, we shouldn’t decide to avoid everything simply because it’s too much trouble, or it feels too risky.
Where is a good balance? That depends on you, your personality, and your condition. Besides normal things, like going to church and the grocery store, I have figured out I can plan about two or three people activities a week if I’m stable. More than that and my body starts wearing down, which leaves me vulnerable to sickness.
We sick people can’t live spontaneously. We have to plan ahead for a lifestyle that fits within our limitations, and then prepare fully to have all the stuff we need to live that life, complete with a few just-in-case additions.
If you’re just getting started into this unhealthy thing, be encouraged. It does get easier. As you go, you learn what is too much for your body to handle. You learn which activities—and which people—are exhausting, and which are invigorating. In time, it becomes a habit to put on the medical bracelet or count out the pills you’ll need, or grab an extra snack for the road.
Life is about more than being sick; we just have to bring a few extra things into that lifestyle … just in case.
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How do you prepare to go anywhere?
by Kimberly Rae
With five different health conditions, including Addison’s disease, asthma, and a cyst nestled under her brain, Kimberly Rae knows what it’s like to live tired of dependence on medication, guilty over needing help, and frustrated over fielding the frequent comment, “But you don t look sick!” Published over 250 times, Rae has work in five different languages. She writes from her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her very patient husband and two young children who regularly pray, “Please help Mommy get better,” and who both love cars and trains despite one of them being a girl.