My story isn’t unique. It isn’t special, however much I wish it were. I wish my story didn’t resonate with people. I wish I were a lone voice, shouting my story into the wind. I wish my life weren’t relatable; that I wasn’t surrounded by people who understand how it feels to live with a broken body. But my story isn’t unique, it isn’t special: I am not alone.
In reality, there are an estimated 15 million people living with chronic illness in the UK – this figure represents nearly a quarter of the total population of the country. Furthermore, a 2016 study carried out by researchers from Imperial College London, Arthritis UK, and the University of Aberdeen found that almost half of the population of the UK are living with (self-assessed) chronic pain. Yet, despite these staggering figures, chronic illness is often an incredibly lonely experience.
In a world where picture-perfect lives surround us on social media, and where positive platitudes are posted like Ace cards ready to trump any problem, it is easy to feel isolated and lost in a minefield of motivational mantras when it takes all the motivation we have just to muster the energy to make it out of bed in the morning. It is easy to feel isolated as we walk through treacle just to stay alive, watching the people around us move with an enviable lightness. It is hard to remember that, no matter the image people portray, we can never know what is really happening just under the surface.
There is no easy fix; no quote or insta-ready photograph that can lift the fatigue that makes the smallest of movements feel like you’re pushing against the weight of a double-decker bus. There is no positive posturing that can take away pain that plagues, not only every waking moment, but every second of every minute of every hour of every day.
But, just because there may not be any quick fixes, no shortcuts to learning to live with a chronic illness, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. Because it is possible. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Our limitations don’t have to limit us.
Just because we feel like shit, it doesn’t mean that we can’t get shit done.
But first, we need to know we’re not alone; that the isolation we feel is merely an illusion. That we are not one, that we are not even few: we are many.
We are many and, together, our weaknesses can become our strength.
Together, we can get shit done, while feeling like shit.
This series ‘One Story Among Many’, will document the lives of people doing just that: incredible people, getting shit done while feeling like shit. Stories to show that we can, we do, and we will prevail.