I have been a chronic illness warrior since I was 4 years old and now I’m almost 30. It’s been a long road. First, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which then was complicated by Lyme Disease contracted in my early teens but not diagnosed until a decade later. Finally, in the last 3 years I have been diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Crossing my fingers that’s everything diagnosed!
Watching The Other Kids
Growing up I fought back a lot of bitterness and resentment as I watched the other kids, teens, and twenty-somethings living their lives. I wanted to play sports, go out dancing and drinking, get a job I loved, or at the very least not need crutches and pills to get through my day.
I spent decades shuffling from doctor to doctor and doing what they said, thinking of my body as a malevolent adversary more with each passing year.
Changing My Perspective
Three years ago I got a job at a gym during a period of remission. As I learned about fitness and got deep into the strength athlete world I began to shift how I thought of my sick person lifestyle. Surrounded by people who did their PT, stuck to their diets, and took their supplements with religious intensity, I no longer felt alone. Here was a mindset I understood and, although my results didn’t look like an athlete’s, the similarity in lifestyle began to change my perspective.
Today, in recovery from one of the worst flares of my life, I balance my time between napping and gym-going. I lift weights and use a cane. I take creatine and also NSAIDs. My diet is dictated by painful digestion and I also count my macros. For the first time in my life I see my body as, at worst, a project I’m working on and, at best, my teammate in life.
The Athlete’s Approach
The athlete’s approach to chronic illness hasn’t solved all my problems. When I’m in pain for days on end I still sink into a stupor of depression. I still hate the choices I make to miss important events with my friends or give up a job I love because of my health. I may never be able to have children or pursue a high-powered successful career. But this new mindset has given me a rope to hold onto in the dark days.
It Is Possible!!
I’m signed up for my first powerlifting meet this fall. I know my numbers are going to be awful and I wont be even slightly competitive in the sport. But I’m doing it. I’m getting up there and doing the thing while still being sick, which is more than my pre-athlete mindset would have even known to dream.
I spent years trying to get better so that I could do things. Now I’m trying out doing things and getting better all at once. Doing things and being chronically ill simultaneously. It’s hard. It’s a daily battle and I slip and I fail and I cry a lot. But it is possible. And I’m doing it. And you can too.