By its very nature, living with a chronic illness can be an incredibly isolating experience; physical symptoms can make even the simplest of socialising near impossible for some. But, even among friends and family – when surrounded by those who love us the most – feelings of isolation can creep in; isolation that comes from feeling alone in our experience of the world around us.
Despite knowing that my friends and family love me, despite being certain in the fact that they genuinely care about me, I still remain reluctant to answer even the simplest question of, ‘How are you?’ with total honesty. Instead – more often than not – a simple, ‘I’m fine,’ or perhaps a ‘Oh, you know, getting by,’ trips from my tongue before my brain has a chance to find the words to describe how I’m really feeling.
But why? Why do I, and so many others, remain silent about the reality of our lives?
For me, the reason for my silence boils down to one thing: fear. A fear of being misunderstood, of not being believed. Fear of being judged. Of being rejected. It is fear that keeps me silent. But all silence breeds is silence; and it is that very same silence that feeds the isolation felt by so many.
The only way to break this cycle – to reduce the isolation felt by those of us living with long-term health conditions – is to break the silence: we have to talk.
We need to talk about chronic illness so that the people who love and care for us can have a glimpse into our world.
We need to talk about chronic illness because, with 15 million people in the UK living with long-term health conditions, there is no need for us to feel alone.
We need to talk about chronic illness because our voices need to be heard.
We need to talk about chronic illness because we have stories to tell: let’s tell them.