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illness

Musings

How to live in a state of perpetual denial about your chronic illness: a helpful guide

(I have a rare chronic kidney condition, sexily named Gitelman Syndrome. You can read all of my posts about it here. In its most bare-bones explanation, a tubule in my kidneys doesn’t know that it should be keeping electrolytes – namely salt, potassium, and magnesium – so it wastes them instead and my body is chronically deficient in these key elements which are really important for things like keeping your moods stable, your energy levels up, and your heart beating. The little things, you know?

As chronic illnesses go it’s a pretty tame one. I just get tired a lot, my muscles are bunched and feel tight like bone, my moods are all over the map. The treatments, too, are pretty mild. I take a lot of pills, sometimes I need to sit in the hospital overnight and get an IV. But sometimes I don’t take my pills, even though I know I should. Sometimes I don’t get blood tests, because I know what they will show.

Denial is a funny thing, so I tried to make it funny, now that I’ve bounced back out of my latest slump. I hope this will resonate with anyone else who deals with chronic illness, or knows a loved one who does.)

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1. Don’t take your medication. You’re busy! So maybe you just forget. Or better yet, maybe you remember but stare at that handful of pills and come up with reasons to take them later, after lunch maybe, when they won’t irritate your stomach. Or after dinner, so you can space out the dosage a little. Or, a personal favourite, stare at that brimming palm-full and just flat-out refuse. Think, “To hell with this.” and decide not to even acknowledge the irrefutable reality that your existence is dependent, in large part, on these innocuous looking little tic-tacs.

You are what you eat, right? And only sick people have to eat handfuls of pills, ergo if you don’t take yours you’re not sick anymore! Guys, it’s LOGIC!

2. Do things that make your condition worse. For me this includes such wild activities as drinking coffee, eating black licorice, sweating, ever having even one alcoholic drink ever goddamnit, etc. Basically just decide to LET LOOSE every once in a while and wholly ignore the inevitable price you’ll pay,  because….reasons.

3. Never wear your MedicAlert bracelet. Because did you know that if you don’t wear the bracelet, your chronic illness disappears? It’s true! Promise!

4. Snap at loved ones when they ask if you’ve taken your medication. Because you know what, ADAM? I am a PERSON, not a DISEASE. And as a PERSON, I have MOODS. I am ALLOWED having moods, you know. Good moods, bad moods, HELL, even bad moods that last for an entire week and demonstrate a 100% correlation with a simultaneous decline in medication-taking and- you know what? I don’t want to talk about this anymore! I said good day!

5. Skip doctors appointments, labwork, and other diagnostic tests. If you don’t do the tests, no one can prove that you’re sick, see? I mean without labwork showing that my levels are in the toilet, I can misappropriate blame for my extreme fatigue, moodiness, and aching back to any number of things. I’m busy! Olive has stopped sleeping while her bottom 4 teeth make their dramatically slow entrance into her smile! I’ve been doing yard work! I AM NORMAL!

 

Ugh, seriously guys. Denial is a horrible thing. Is it just me? I’m really hoping it’s not just me.

Here what I have learned (again) that will hopefully help in the future: Take your medication, and once you are on an even keel again write a note to yourself about how you are feeling. Witness your calm, and your energy, and how you can do more than lie in bed and cry and snap at people around you (including your adorable daughter). Keep this note somewhere safe and show it to yourself the next time you think that you’re doing great! And are fine! And will just skip your pills! Because you clearly don’t need them!

You do. And I do.

I’ve written that note, and now I’m off to pop pills LIKE A BOSS.