Not every part of having a chronic condition is bad. My condition has allowed me to grow a super power. Super powers aren’t just relegated to the comic heroes, every day people can have super powers too. People like you and me.
So what’s my super power? Empathy.
Let me explain:
CFS, Lyme, Fibro, and other chronic conditions all seem to come along with a plethora of what I call “side-dish symptoms.” Not the main symptoms, but those annoying, and often painful symptoms that cause you to change your lifestyle, but maybe not as drastically as the main symptoms. Things like food intolerance’s, headaches, rashes, joint pains, and more.
There are co-morbid conditions (conditions that modern medicine has noticed that tend to happen at the same time as your “main” chronic condition) like IBS, and, either because having a chronic condition puts you in the “unlucky” group or whether it can in and of itself trigger other responses in your body, having a chronic condition appears to make it more likely to have a lot of other symptoms and conditions too (modern medicine just hasn’t found the connections yet). For example:
When I was little I was diagnosed with dyslexia. It was mild and I learned how work around it. As a teen I learned being calm reduced it’s effects. But with the cognitive difficulties that have come up while having CFS flare ups, my dyslexia goes to a whole new level. I have a new found respect and deep understanding of those who live with dyslexia.
In 2013 I developed a chronic pain spot on my back (chronic pain is where you don’t actually have a cause for pain, the signals in your nerves are misfiring). The first summer I had it, the flare ups were so bad, that even just the light breeze from the fan touching my skin would send my into screams of agony. Thankfully it’s not as bad as it used to be (it flares at the same time as the other CFS symptoms). I know what it’s like to feel like your body is attacking you, like you can’t get away from pain or other sensations. I know pain that doesn’t go away and my heart breaks for all those still suffering.
I am full of these symptoms. Mark Hyman, a functional medicine practitioner, is known for saying he is a “wholistic doctor” because he sees patients with a “whole list” of symptoms. Many of these symptoms are common enough to have names, some have treatments, and the specialists I see are never surprised by them. What I have come to understand is that these common symptoms are not evenly spread throughout the population, but clustered in a smaller number of people; that there are people out there just like me with lists of symptoms. In some ways it feels unfair that we should hog all these beauties to ourselves. But if I think of them as a gift instead of a burden, I can see so clearly how they make up my super power. I don’t empathize with only one condition. That means I understand so many chronic condition sufferers (with lists of their own), and anyone who has any one of these “common” conditions. Do you have one of these conditions? I likely do too. I can empathize. That’s my super power. What’s yours?