Things That Will Happen When You Have a Chronic Illness

When you finally get a diagnosis, it will feel like a cure, so you will drive yourself home from the doctor’s office mentally assigning hope to every second of yesterday’s despair. The light will dim. The clock will tick. The stars will rise, and you will realise that your illness was not in your imagination. It will not pass with a prescription cure, a yoga class, or a weekly schedule of physio-fucking-therapy. And so you will cry, and the tears will feel like a relief and a lament simultaneously.

It will feel as though your life has changed irrevocably, even though you’ve been ill for years. You’ll tell yourself that your new label is just a silly word, but then you’ll fight that diagnosis with all the denial you can muster as though it’s much more than a silly word.


It will not rectify your grief. In the morning you’ll swallow a handful of pills: one red, three white, two yellow, one green. That will be the way you greet every day of your future—with a rainbow of capsuled magic. This reality will obliterate your denial, so you’ll hide them in a cupboard you never use.

A month will pass. The side effects of your meds will have turned your life into a haze. Your language will become cluttered with the vernacular of the perpetually ill. Terms like “prognosis”, “half-life” and “peak plasma levels” will trip of your tongue as easily as they do your doctors’. Yes, that’s plural because you’ll no longer have a physician. You’ll have a team. This will outrage you, so you’ll work your anger out through work addiction, casual sex, and furious journal entries. Your friends will suggest coffee enemas, probiotics, and homeopathy. Your doctors will suggest surgery, sleep hygiene, and psychotherapy. You will try the sleep but not the surgery.

You will spend hours on the internet trying to understand your illness. You will look for a cure and find reams of material on patient empowerment. You’ll take that lesson to your primary care doctor and insist on a new treatment plan: four yellow, two white, one lilac. A month will pass: two yellow, one white, three lilac.

One day you’ll realise you feel better than you have in a decade. You’ll develop the confidence to tell your friends to stop trying to fix you. You’ll start managing to socialise without a week’s worth of consequences and begin to celebrate the superpowers of sleep hygiene. You’ll feel life teeming through you like plasma filaments from a tesla coil.

You’ll relapse.

You’ll recover.



You’ll learn that certainty and permanence have forever evaporated from your life, so you will read “The Miracle of Mindfulness” and take up yoga. You’ll change your career and become as adept at staying in the present as a Buddhist monk.

One day, you’ll see the sun nudging itself over the horizon and realise you’re at peace even though your body is at war. Your happiness will no longer depend on your symptoms, but on your spirit.

And you will have spirit. It will be as vibrant as that sun.




8 thoughts on “Things That Will Happen When You Have a Chronic Illness

  1. Pinkerbelle

    Oh my god the fixers! “Yes Pam, I totally agree, it would indeed be wonderful, if not downright miraculous, if chicken soup could remove the need to inject myself four times daily. I’ll definitely look into that!”


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