Last year, I believe I discussed my tragic relationship with money. But I didn't really get into how chronic illness affects your debt, and your money and how it affects you.
I'm all for a good financial fight, but it's hard to win when your body is betraying you every step of the way.
For those of you reading this who are not chronically ill, let me explain.
When your illness is flaring, it feels like everything hurts . You either don't feel like getting up and doing much at all; or the pain is so bad that you simply can't move much. It's hard for most people to remember how debilitating it feels when they're healthy and happy.
And sometimes, even if the pain isn't as bad as usual , your mental state changes enough that nothing seems exciting anymore…the smallest task seems insurmountable; sleeping feels better than anything else because then you aren't thinking about whatever was stressing you out so badly.
And depending on what kind of illness you have - whether its an autoimmune disease, Chronic Migraine, etc. you might have symptoms that are more or less visible to other people.
And even if they're not ill - most of us chronically ill people have friends and family who want to help us. They try to give us money for bills or buy us groceries. If we have kids, they may offer to take them so we can get a break…or just some time alone without anyone else around.
And even when our symptoms are milder, it is so very hard not accept this generosity because the alternative is feeling guilty about your own exhaustion and pain and compound that with watching someone love you and trying (and failing) to explain why you cannot let them do it anymore. It feels like failure; like if you just tried harder, you could accept their help.
But no matter how hard you try, the physical and mental toll of illness keeps getting in the way.
Even with people who just want to take care of us, it can be difficult because all they know is what we tell them; but our loved ones aren't doctors or nurses or therapists or even other chronic pain/illness sufferers .
And sometimes its very hard for them to understand all that we're going through before it becomes too much for anyone else to handle . They only see the part of us, or maybe even most of us, that are able to get up and do basic tasks.
And when they see even those things elude us…they start thinking about all the other things they'd love to help us with - maybe because these are things our illness makes impossible for us to do or maybe they're just basic activities that most people take for granted. And then they buy groceries, because what else can you do with a bunch of unused food?
Pay the bills with your credit card, because you're always several days behind and how can rent be more important than food? And then they think that maybe we don't really need help after all; that we like to pretend we're helpless.
And sometimes, this is true. Maybe we do like playing victim.
But it's hard to tell you exactly why - beyond saying 'I'm so tired' or 'I just feel horrible today' - when I can barely breathe for the pain or stand without feeling dizzy and nauseous .
And sometimes we like to pretend…because even though it's exhausting and disheartening, we're still more comfortable with that than feeling like a bother.
And we all know this is true - because chronic illness is isolating as hell.
Most of the people you used to see every day go back to their regular lives or just fade into the background of yours . "Oh, you're too tired to come out tonight? Well maybe I'll catch up with you next week." And those of us who were close with those people before don't want to over step any boundaries and so we sit at home alone and wait.
Waiting for our friends and family members who can see us now, rather than some ideal version of ourselves we used to be.
Most times, they do come back; but sometimes it isn't soon enough . And by the time we've realized that we never want to wait for someone who's not coming back again - because if they can't make time for us now , when our illness is clearly limiting us in ways they don't see, what will happen when its not as obvious…when our bodies are stronger?
And when you tell them all of this , it sounds like an excuse or maybe even a threat ; like you'll get better and then you won't need them anymore . But mostly, it feels like failure. Like letting down people who only wanted to help us in the first place.
So instead, most of us sit and wait for the people we used to be - and hope it's not too long before they realize we're still here.
It is hard not to accept their help, because what else can you do? You don't want them feeling bad, but sometimes your body just doesn't work. And that makes you feel guilty. Sometimes you like having people around though. Even when it wears you out and hurts/irritates the symptoms you have at times, it feels good to know someone is there if needed even if you never need them and they know it also.
I've shared my experience with debts and chronic illness in my past podcast.
You can listen to it here
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