As a general observation I have noticed there have emerged many different personality types from amongst the chronically ill, and depending on our various factors we can fit into a few different types at any given time. I know I certainly have!
This is written with the express purpose of being a light hearted look at the many different personalities we can encounter and I am sure that some of you will identify with some, if not all, of these experiences.
The Denial Chronic:.
This is the person who may have been diagnosed with a chronic illness but doesn’t want to accept that this has happened and will rarely talk about it to anyone. Not even other chronically ill sufferers.
There can be many valid reasons for this personality type, but it can make other chronically ill people feel like they can not and should not talk about their challenges in a meaningful way.
The Denial chronic can be a helpful reminder that there are more aspects to our lives than our health status, but can also be in a state of denial about their health and how it needs to be managed.
“Maybe if I ignore it it will go away…?”
The Super Chronic:
This person will remind everyone how they continue to achieve so much, despite having a chronic illness.
It can make other chronically ill sufferers feel like they ‘failing’ at being ill when they compare what they can do in relation to the Super Chronic.
Very often we may forget that some of the Super Chronics may be at a higher functioning level compared to others and experience less symptoms or flares but this is rarely acknowledged by the Super Chronic or the other sufferers.
The Super Chronic is actually a reminder to pursue some goals whenever the ability and opportunity arises, but not so helpful when it makes others feel left out or like they are under achieving when they can’t do what the Super Chronic can.
“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s super chronic!!”
The Competitive Chronic:
This person sees illness and pain as a competition and is constantly reminding everyone, and other chronically ill sufferers, that they are far worse off than practically everyone else.
There can be some very valid reasons for why this person feels as they do I.e. feeling overwhelmed or unsupported, but the message can be interpreted as a race to see who is the most ill.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall… who is the sickest of us all?! “
The Herbal Chronic:
This group is always trying any new fad in the bid to find a cure to their symptoms I.e. New diets, herbal teas, supplements, burning sage, chanting and navel gazing.
This group is helpful in reminding us to take a holistic approach and not just rely on western medicine for all our disease management. It also helps if we can do some positive things and be open minded to something that may help us feel more in control of our care.
On the flip side they can make sufferers feel like we aren’t trying hard enough to get better if we haven’t tried every single fad or latest article written by someone who ate grass clippings or sat under a yak for a month and became cured.
“Try rubbing raw beetroot on your elbow for a week and it can cure your … “
The Seasoned Chronic:
Not much shocks this sufferer. They have been ill for long enough that they have seen, read and lived through almost everything.
It can be wonderful when you encounter these sage like warriors because it gives others a sense that we aren’t slowly going mad on the flip side it is sad when we realize that in all this time there has been little change to the ways that the chronically ill have had to suffer and try to cope with some very difficult challenges.
Still no cures in all this time!
“Four score and seven years…”
The Positivity Chronic:
This person can empty a support group in a single minute when they get out their soap box and start reciting every positivity slogan they have ever read!
For those that have taken the emotional plunge and shared some of the hardest aspects of their lives it is the emotional equivalent of having cold water thrown in your face.
These people remind you of the starving children in Africa, those people dying of cancer in hospital wards and then finish by making you feel like a cry baby for complaining about losing your job, your identity or your ability to walk…
It is always good to remember that we are not alone and that things could be harder when we feel at our most vulnerable, but not to the point of giving up our compassion, empathy and self love. We should not feel guilty about having human weaknesses and emotions. We can’t always be positive and all the positivity in the world isn’t going to help us access a building that isn’t disability friendly.
“Stop complaining, you could be dead!…”
In summary we are all unique and so are our experience of chronic life. Let us not forget that whatever happens, we are not alone and there is no shame for being who we really are. May we always find comfort in a dark hour and a chronic friendship that helps make the fight more manageable.