Facing The Mundane Realities Of Chronic Illness

There are some things which are obvious about chronic illness, although admittedly when it is an invisible illness even those obvious things are hard to see and be aware of.  I don’t mean for this post to be a ‘moaning Maggie‘ post, so forgive me if you think I am heading there.  But this is on my mind.  With most posts I publish it is my desire that people read them (ok, I’m stating the obvious), but this time I admit that the shame involved in posting leaves me with mixed feelings.  Yes, I want you to read but yes, I am ashamed of what I say.

I read awhile ago that Fibromyalgia doesn’t kill you but you just keep getting sicker.  I don’t know if that is true, or another internet rumour, but this past year certainly seems to have been worse than before.  I feel a bit like fibro has become just one long line of flare symptoms, with little or no break.  My head seems in a permanent fog.

On Tuesday I have a small army of people coming through my house to do yet another assessment of earthquake damage left from 2010/11.  Yes, you’re quite right.  That was a long time ago but recovery takes… forever it seems.

They always promise ‘minimal disruption‘ but around ten people going over (and under and through) the house with a fine tooth comb is not ‘minimal disruption‘.  That’s ok though as I am just happy that someone is doing something.  Maybe one day there will be a decision on just what to do with my poor home.

From many of these assessments before, I am fully aware that they will see everything… including the fact that my house is not just untidy, but also unclean.  And yes, it’s got to that stage where it’s plainly obvious.  I am ashamed at the state of the place, but it has become like that simply because my fibro has been bad enough to prevent me from doing housework.  I also know , like a promised added extra, that when I actually get to cleaning it is likely to land me in bed for a week, simply from the effort involved.

So why am I telling you about my shameful dirty house?  Because if you looked at me you wouldn’t see a reason why I couldn’t have kept on top of it.  I look healthy.  I look able.  I look like there is nothing wrong with me.  Yet I can’t keep up with what is simply a small two bedroom house with only one person to mess it up.

I don’t have a lot of people come to my house usually.  I admit to being somewhat of a hermit.  I have no idea of what judgements those who have been here lately will have made of me.  There is always silence.  And uncomfortable silence where you wish to god that they would just say something.

Right now I am very aware of the judgements that this army of people might make on Tuesday.  Yet there is very little I can do about it.  I can hardly stop them at the door and say “BTW excuse the mess, I have fibro“.  I really don’t think they will care for excuses.  You see, I look fine and so the judgement will be made that I am fine, but lazy.

That old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies in so many ways.  If you walk into someone’s house and notice it is unclean and untidy, stop to think that there may be a reason.  Most of us don’t choose to live in such a state, but some of us find ourselves having to.

You see, apart from when ten people are about to come through my house, I can kind of overlook the state of my home.  I don’t like it, and I would love for it not to be the reality, but my priorities are largely my health and my mother’s welfare.  After those, if I have no wellness and energy to deal with housework, it simply has to be as it is.  I’m learning to live with it, even though I will probably never like it.

It’s not just chronic physical illness that can prevent us from staying on top of such mundane tasks.  Mental illness can too.  Certainly for some people with mental illness, they can find it therapeutic to do those things but for others, it is simply too much.  For some, their illness can be affected by the state of their home, but for others illness almost keeps us from seeing the obvious.  Actually I have no difficulty in seeing the obvious today.

We need to find ways of being kind to ourselves.  I could choose to beat myself up about what I can’t do right now.  It would make sense as more than likely I am going to be judged by it shortly. But this time I’m trying not to get stressed.  If cleaning happens, it happens… and I’ll probably spend the rest of the week in bed.  If I can’t do it, so be it.  It won’t be the end of my world.

And now comes the big question… do I publish or not?  This is, afterall a post about housework and my unclean house.  Can I swallow the pill of shame in order to say out loud that this happens.  It’s real.  Actually I bet it’s real for many more than just me.  Maybe it’s not the housework.  Maybe it’s some other mundane reality of chronic illness.  We can talk about the illness, but there’s more to it than just symptoms.  There are all the realities of just keeping life going.  The best we can do for each other is to be real about them.

“When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.”

― Byron Katie

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13 thoughts on “Facing The Mundane Realities Of Chronic Illness

  1. I struggle with the same thing–it’s definitely not just you. When my case manager did an unannounced “safety inspection” of my apartment a few months ago, I could just feel the judgment–you look fine, so why’s your kitchen a mess? (Aside from the fact that most of it was my roommates’ mess.) It’s so easy to internalize the shame and feel like I should be able to do all the things normal people do.

    1. I don’t think you should feel ashamed and I’m glad you posted! I wish I could hop over and give you a hand! What is equally difficult is asking for help with the house. And anyone who has come to visit your house and not you, well, show them the door! Hugs coming your way!

  2. My husband and mother-in-law do most of the cleaning around here. I suffer from fatigue every day. I feel very guilty and try to do what I can. I wish I could find out what’s wrong with me and get better. I totally understand and don’t judge you one little bit. Take care of yourself first, the house can come after.

    1. Thanks Joyce. I’m glad you have your husband and mother-in-law there to help you. I know that fatigue is so awful to live with especially when you don’t have an explanation for it.

  3. I totally understand that feeling. I have nothing like fibro, but post my rape, and after the denial part, I went through a huge period of depression, PTSD and constant panic attacks…It took a long time to start putting my life back together, and sadly the last thing I could be bothered with was how ordered my place is. I was just too exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically. I hated that I can’t make myself fix it, unless there is someone I don’t know coming over, but I was too tired, and putting the pieces of my life together HAD to be a priority. Life is complex, and people only see the surface. Hugs

  4. When I first started to recover from years of mental illness, the first thing I noticed was just how filthy the place was. Now it reflects my life – tidy and clean on the outside, but a mess hidden in the cupboards.

    It’s difficult to get on top of it. I was fortunate to have help from other people and then decorators did the heaviest of jobs. I now live with similar health issues and it is difficult to keep on top of the housework.

    I’ve faced the shame when people/workmen have called round. I do understand your anxiety. It won’t go amiss just to mention the reason for the mess. I’m sure they have seen it all anyway. Hope it goes okay, Cate

    1. Hi Cat, I came to the conclusion eventually that I don’t care if people who don’t know me choose to judge me. So many tradesmen walked through my house yesterday and I didn’t let it worry me. What does worry me is friends and family. It’s the awkward silences that get to me. I wish they’d just say what’s on their mind, get it out there and maybe even they could help me find a solution. But for now I think it’s awkward silences but I’m going to hold my head up high.

      1. How about trying to voice it whenever a friend or family member visits. TBH, I wouldn’t let anyone in when my flat was a pig sty!. Like you, workmen were one thing, those close, quite another.

        I suffer extreme paranoia, usually around what other people think. What you say about not allowing it space in your head resonates a lot.

        I know your posts are written for yourself, but I always find them very helpful, thanks Cate!

        PS I hope you get the damage repaired soon and maybe then you can consider another furry friend

  5. johnrichardson2014

    Publish! Always, publish. Push the button and be done with it. The truth will set you free. Whatever you write it will be read by people who have made plenty of mistakes of their own.

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