“But hun you’re so much more than your illness!”
I know. I totally know. This is not me on a downer. I don’t feel like I’m saying I am nothing but a person with chronic illness.
When I say I am defined by my illness, or something similar, in Real Life people are quick to contradict me. They often don’t see me only as ‘Anna with M.E.’ (which is good, because I’m not). But when I say these things out loud, they seem to think that that’s solely how I view myself.
I don’t. I’m Anna, wife of Mr Tree Surgeon, stay-at-home guinea pig mum, daughter, sister, cousin, aunty, friend…
But we can’t deny that my illhealth is one of the biggest things in my whole life. It has defined every single day for a decade. Not in a ‘Oh Woe Is Me’ way. Just in a “I can’t video call you today because I used my energy to brush my teeth” way.
Some days that sucks. But often it just Is.
I’m okay with that.
My chronic ill health actually makes up a huge part of my identity. I’m a ‘blogger’ who writes solely about their experience of life in the slow lane. I founded a fundraising event centred around my health condition. And while I no long call myself an M.E sufferer, instead now choosing “person with M.E” (note the difference language can make there) I see identifying a full-time poorly person as merely realistic.
So often it’s “You are so much more than your illness.” Well, yes. I’m not saying that. I’m saying you can’t deny that chronic illness impacts my life dramatically.
In all honesty, I am the person I am today largely because of facing chronic ill health for ten years. That is not automatically a bad or negative thing. I wouldn’t change who I am for the world.
Sorry to rain on anyone’s hashtag inspirational parade. Why can’t I live side by side with my illness, rather than constantly aiming to be above it… Why do I have to overcome it, or not admit to the impact it has.
My illness goes so far that it affects my personality. So often I don’t have the energy to be the upbeat person that I am. It’s still in there, very much so, but not in the ways it should be or would be without M.E. and the faulty energy supply that comes with it.
While I still might have similar interests (sport, crafting, reading) I’m not actually able to do those things. When you’re too unwell to even watch your favourite genre of film or read/listen to your favourite books, your sense of identity gets blurred.
I (subconsciously and consciously) always defined myself by what I could do. I know you ‘shouldn’t’ but it’s how a capitalist society works.
When your whole life has been altered by illness, and absolutely every aspect of it consumed by that illness, it seems impossible for your sense of self and sense of identity not to be impacted.
Absolutely everything post-university has been affected by my health from the things I eat and drink, to my hair styles, to what I can wear, to the friends I have, the hobbies I’ve had a go at… I never had the chance to meet the post-university Anna that should/would have been.
I often have no idea where the illness stops and Anna begins. Do I dislike X Y or Z, or is it just that I can’t tolerate those things anymore?
It’s perfectly okay and understandable that I am partly defined by it and that it influences such a large part of my identity.