Thursday 25th May 2017,
The Denisonian

The reality of living with a chronic illness

JESSICA LEEDS RICHMAN ‘20

Special to the Denisonian

I am nineteen years old and I have fibromyalgia, a complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread and/or focused aches and pains of the muscles and joints, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

By looking at me, you see that I am cheerful, bubbly and always willing to have a conversation. But on the inside I am almost always completely exhausted and utterly drained.

I would like to address the misconceptions about chronic illness, and help you understand my life as a young person with these conditions.

With chronic fatigue, it is practically given that I will always be tired, even if I actually slept a full night of eight to ten hours. Please do not compare our amounts of sleep.

It is unlikely for me to ever get the amount or the quality of sleep that I truly need. So, please do not give me cause to feel badly that you are fully functioning on three when I barely got seven and I am still tired.

Know that I almost always want to say “yes” with the utmost conviction, but sometimes I just can’t. Please be understanding if I ever have to say “no” to doing something with you or passing on helping you with anything.

I am so passionate about so many causes and issues, particularly at Denison, and I am trying to do everything at the expense of my own well-being.

This is a challenge that can be seen as a “first-year problem,” but my conditions make it more difficult as I have less energy than the average person, and usually more passion too.

I want you to recognize how extremely difficult it is for me to balance life as a college student and as a person with a chronic illness. I am so happy here, and I have finally found the sense of community that I was not able to have before Denison.

However, now that I have such wonderful people in my life, it is a constant battle of productivity and possibility, before my body tells me that I just can’t keep going anymore.

I tend to lose my train of thought a lot. This is due to the fibro fog that clouds my mind at the most inconvenient of times. I promise that if I start talking, then I have something to say, but many times my brain will just lose the thought.

It is so frustrating to know that I have so much to contribute, but then feel that I am seen as a fraud when I cannot remember what was on my mind mere nanoseconds ago.

Also, if I am absent from class more often than you, please understand that I want to be there with all my heart. I am dedicated to my classes and my academics, and I am so impassioned. Know that there are times when I do not have the strength to get out of bed.

I have been looking forward to college ever since I knew what it was, and I am not about to give up on that dream now.

I want to have the college life, and yes that is different for everyone, but I want to have the “normal”  life that I know I could have if not for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

I am not about to let chronic illness get in the way of my happiness, even though it seems nearly impossible.

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