The Toll

Living with a chronic disease or illness takes a toll on us, whether we have lived with it for three years or fifty years, and there is no prize for suffering the longest. Knowing that others suffer more, or for longer, gives me no comfort at all. I think it may be a remnant of the notion that we should have a stiff upper lip and suffer in silence, and a kind of self-inflicted guilt trip, which are both rubbish to me.

Dealing with Pain and Suffering

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we need to obsess or constantly share our every pain with those around us because they will grow weary and I am reminded of a story from my youth about a chicken and sky, and the boy and a wolf. Believe me when I say that I have obsessed on more than one occasion about my health issues, and I have come to believe it is quite normal, at least some of the time. The extent we share with others is up to us; each and every one of us needs to decide with who and what we share.

Over time we do pay a toll for the effects of constant pain and suffering. And how we deal with it varies just as much as we do in every other way. Hep C has a wide range of effects on our health over time, and like we see in other chronic illness’ there is no absolutely predictable and identical trajectory. Some of us live with HCV for a very long time (decades) with little damage to our liver or with little or no symptoms, even with advanced liver disease. That does not mean that we do not suffer in other ways that are just as devastating as having a damaged liver. For many of us that suffered with symptoms for years with no diagnosis, it took a toll on our ability to have a reasonable quality of life like we all desire and deserve.

Illness Takes a Toll on Our Mental Health, Too

The effect on our moods and general mental health can be profound, as I have learned in the experience of others and in my own experience. If we have a list of additional health concerns on top of our hep C condition, it only makes it worse. Because of sport and some of my work activities in my own past I suffer from chronic back pain and have done so even with a cure for my hep C seven years ago. This has taken it’s own toll over time, with trips to hospitals, doctors, and medications to help in dealing with the pain, it has been a very real struggle at times.

My point is that when taken in the totality of all these different conditions it wears us down despite how positive our attitude is. Even the most glass half full personality will be affected by chronic illness. We can deny it, and some will deny the takeover and I cannot disagree with an approach that allows us to find ways to deal with and cope with the onslaught of pain and illness. We may need help, and we should always seek help if we need it. There is no reason you or I should feel they must suffer in silence if we can find the support and help we need.

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