Autoimmune Disease, Enemy or Teacher?
In short order, it’s both. Literally.
Autoimmune Disease and many autoimmune disorders come in multiple forms. Sjogren’s Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto's Disease, Psoriasis, Lupus, and even some forms of cancer all fall into this bracket. There are neurological disorders that are caused by a failing autoimmune system, and countless others that fall under this multifaceted bracket.
The simple truth of these ailments is this: they’re hard to function with. In many cases, these ailments come with the unfortunate side effect of chronic fatigue. This means no matter how much you sleep, you wake up feeling just as tired as the day before. It’s easy for time to blur together because there’s no real break – there’s no rest – it’s a circle that is inescapable.
For some, the body is tricked into attacking itself.
For others, the body destroys all figurative shields that could otherwise help them stay healthy and well. For everyone with the misfortune of being diagnosed with one of these orders, there is precious little hope of being handed a cure-all pill.
Instead, we’re often told to face life without inconveniencing social systems, health providers, employers, and even friends and family. Many autoimmune disorders are invisible illnesses – meaning that, unless you’re standing on the street corner and waving a neon flag, no one is readily going to look at you and think sick. Instead, they may look at you and think lazy.
And that can, at times, be even more difficult to handle than the physical problems of the disease. But that’s also where you start learning. Because of the rest of the world? They’re never going to let up, and they’re never going to accept the fact that you’re physically incapable of keeping up with the expectations that modern society places upon their youth and young adults.
Accepting that is the first lesson. Overcoming it is the second.
There is no greater skill involved in surviving an autoimmune disease than that of figuring out how to set your own pace. It’s taken me a long time to realize that. As someone who suffers from one of these ailments, it can be hard not to let the comments that others make affect how you try to handle your social life, your career, and your health problems. It can be easy to start trying to rush and push yourself – but that can, in turn, make it more difficult to function at all in the days to come.
Don’t ever quit setting your own goals, but there’s no reason to force yourself to continuously meet the expectations of others. Pick a path that’s suited to what you’re able to accomplish each day without limiting how you function in the next one.
If you can learn to do this in a physical aspect of your life, it will be much easier to apply it to other aspects. It’s not an easy thing to do, but in a situation like ours, it’s almost a requirement.
Going through the process
Push on at your own pace.
Set your own limits.
Find pride in the fact that, even with so many odds stacked against you, you’re still willing to function on a higher level.
In the end, it will be worth all of the pain, hassle, and inconsiderate comments. In the end, people will look at you and think champion.