Why Living With a Chronic Disease Shouldn't Be a "Battle"

How many times have you described living with a chronic disease as "a battle"?

Maybe you said it when, after weeks of feeling awesome, you barely feel like crawling out of bed. 

Or maybe you were at a restaurant you thought had a gluten free menu...but it didn't end up being celiac safe

Or maybe you didn't say it all, but thought it as you tried - and failed - to get a stranger to understand that your invisible illness is 100% real


The point is, when you're coping with a chronic disease, it's easy to see life as a battle between you and your body. But it doesn't have to be that way. 

As Brenda commented on one of my previous posts, "I don't claim illness over my life. I speak health over my life. I try not to even use the term 'battle.' I don't want to be in a battle."

And as I read her words, I realized: the choice is ours. True, we can't say that about many aspects of living with a chronic disease. With celiac disease, I can't choose for my body to normally digest gluten. With fibromyalgia, I can't choose to wake up pain-free.

But I can decide to enjoy my gluten free diet and be thankful that my body works well when I eat gluten free. I can follow an exercise and stretching plan that minimizes my pain. 


Even more importantly, I can decide to stop seeing my body as the enemy. So much of our body is not under our control, we may forget that we have any control at all. Now is the time to rememberNow is the time to realize that, yes, our body may often misbehave and has plenty of flaws. However, our best friends and family members make the same infractions - and we still love them.

So what does living in peace - instead of in a battle - with your chronically ill body look like? 

Research on the empowerment of patients with chronic illnesses suggests that peace involves:

  • Understanding your health condition and its effect
  • Make informed decisions about your medical treatment and challenging medical professionals when necessary 
  • Accepting and enacting lifestyle changes to help your condition
  • Seeking out, evaluating and using information about your health condition

Basically, when you aren't battling your body, you're accepting responsibility for your health and care, striving to make the right treatment choices and doing your best to live healthfully. 

In daily life, though, peace can have different faces. For me, it means avoiding weight workouts for a few weeks (even though I love them) because weights sometimes trigger a fibro flare. It also means accepting that my stomach will randomly bloat - and, instead of stressing over it, eating normally and trusting that the bloat will subside

Especially if you're newly diagnosed, it may feel scary to accept that a chronic disease does - and probably always will - play a big role in your life. Accepting your illness might feel like accepting that your body or quality of life will never improve. However, it's important to differentiate fighting your body and fighting for progress


You can love your body - and maybe even appreciate your chronic illness - and still strive to improve it. For instance, I will never stop trying to increase my body's stamina or better my stomach's digestion. Starting today, though, I am going to try to remove "battle" from my chronic illness vocabulary. 

Because, like Brenda says, I don't want to be in a battle. I don't want to wake up every morning knowing that I need to fight through the day. 

What I do want to wake up saying? Something like: "I don't know how - or what - my body is going to do today. But whatever happens, I can choose to call today a good day."
Ultimately, you decide what a truce between yourself and your chronic illness looks like. Similarly, you'll need to develop your own coping strategies for chronic illness. However, remember the phrase: "You decide." It's is a reminder of the personal control and empowerment no chronic disease can ever take away



Have you ever compared living with your chronic illness to fighting a battle? Any other thoughts? Tell me in the comments!

Comments

  1. Another Great post Casey! Having rheumatoid arthritis (in remission, luckily) and chronic depression/ PTSD I do constantly feel at battle and get tired of the metaphor and having to fight hard just to get out of bed

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    1. Thanks for the comment Tessa. I'm so sorry to hear about your own struggles, and I'm sending you lots of love! <3

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  2. I don't battle my Celiac, I just live with it. Once I accepted my limits instead of fighting them I was able to work with my body. Now my limits are totally different than when I started. It's just like how healthy people can't just wake up and run a marathon. They have to accept their starting point and work from there. My starting point was different lol.

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    1. I love your first line, Brittany! And working with your body is so important. In fact, I just love your whole comment - such a great mindset!

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  3. I really do think this is a powerful post. There is so much great insight in this though I think my favorite is:
    "Basically, when you aren't battling your body, you're accepting responsibility for your health and care, striving to make the right treatment choices and doing your best to live healthfully. "

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Elise. I'm so glad you liked it as much as I did!

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  4. You are an amazing young woman. An inspiration to many, including me! Keep the faith always! Thank you for sharing so beautifully and deeply!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Stacy. They mean a lot! <3

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  5. Interesting post. Weights definitely trigger a fibro flare in me. Eating gluten free does help lessen the pain and stiffness though I am not a celiac. it was great to find you on Fibro Blogger directory today. P.S. Are you on twitter?

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one who has an issue with weights. And I am on twitter as collegeceliackc :) I believe I've already followed you back! <3

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  6. Wow this is loaded with content great write up!

    I've been fortunate to never have a chronic disease so i've never had to endure the battle.

    Love and respect to those who have to.

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  7. I refuse to battle and instead work with. Yes some changes have to be made but I'm ok with that. Acceptance is the key to moving on and thriving with chronic illness!

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    1. Work with is a great mindset to have! Acceptance can make a HUGE difference!

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  8. I like the idea of starting the day with acceptance for what will happen with my body. I don't have celiac but I do have my own chronic issues. I think I'll keep these tips.

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    1. I hope these tips will help you in the future. Lots of love your way! <3

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  9. I love this post so much--I think it'll inspire a lot of people. :] You have such a great perspective on life! <3

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words, Farrah! Sending lots of love your way!

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  10. Some interesting thoughts here, on the bad days it can feel like a battle however I guess Fibro is also the gift that led me to becoming a blogger. Susan at livingcreativelywithfibro.uk

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    1. I love your mindset, Susan! I'm grateful that celiac (and fibro) helped me become a blogger as well!

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  11. Chronic diseases shouldn't be a battle as long as you obey the doctor's advice and rules on the ways you can manage yourself.

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