Chronic illness can take several forms.
- You have a definite diagnosis such as MS, fibromyalgia, cancer, etc.
- You have a group of symptoms that the doctors can’t (or won’t) pin down with a diagnosis
- You have symptoms that defy diagnosis
- Your symptoms are not taken seriously
For the most part, I live in the gray area of points two to four. I have some diagnoses, physical, and mental. However, I also have symptoms that seem to either go unnoticed by doctors or just defy explanation altogether. And I know I am not the only one.
Two terms often associated with chronic illness are disorder and syndrome. They have some interesting definitions.
Disorder (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- lack of order clothes in disorder
- breach of the peace or public order troubled times marked by social disorders
- an abnormal physical or mental condition a liver disorder a personality disorder
Syndrome (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition
a set of concurrent things (as emotions or actions) that usually form an identifiable pattern
I have bipolar disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a bingeing disorder. These all are characterized by a lack of “order”, a “breach of peace”, an “abnormal mental condition”.
My fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, chronic fatigue, and thankfully former premenstrual problems are all classified as syndromes. Like the definition, they are a bunch of symptoms that are lumped together. I have been told by various doctors that each of them really is not a true medical condition. Tell that to the millions of us who deal with them every single day!
I am not trying to downplay chronic illness here or the doctors who really have been helpful in diagnosis and treatment. I would be the last person in the world to ever do that. I am more trying to paint a picture that our world is not black and white, nor is it beautiful and colorful.
I feel like my world is made up of shades of gray. Some days I am feeling less pain and more fatigue, others are the other way around, and even others are all good or all bad. Then I throw my mental conditions into the pot and it mixes everything up even more.
More proof that nothing chronic is black and white is the fact that we can never make set plans, and if we do, there’s a good chance we will break them. We find it difficult to say how we are feeling at any given time and it may change seconds after we say it!
Here’s to a time when all of us who live on the chronic gray scale can live more definitive lives.