Crimeless victims – living with a chronic illness

Originally written by Esther Mills, and available here: http://www.helium.com/items/1660416-chronic-illness

There are victimless crimes, and then there are crimeless victims. That is one of the most hateful aspects of chronic illness, that it is a crime with no criminal. A family may be torn apart by a cruel illness but there is no one to lash back at; it is the hit-and-run that keeps on giving.

When they do think of chronic illness, those on the outside may think mainly of the ill person himself, but the genius of illness is how thin it can spread itself and how many people it can devastate beyond just the person it touches. The man with multiple sclerosis suffers a great deal, and so does his wife: in mourning the loss of what their marriage used to be, in his daily care, in worry about the future, in having no one to talk with who understands. The children of the woman with fibromyalgia adju st to the “new normal” way of life, learning to care more for themselves or need less from their mother, learning to walk under skies that are never completely bright.

Like a predator, chronic illness isolates its prey and attacks. Few friends are able to understand, nor do they find it comfortable to imagine it for too long, and so they call less, visit less…or else the ill person himself finds it hard to reach out. He sinks into the depths and leaves phone calls unreturned. He turns his face from the window and embraces the lethargy of depression.

Chronic illness is the slow, insidious death of dreams. The once wide-open future has been reduced to only one or two possibilities, and neither of them is particularly exciting. Those who are ill shut themselves off, as well as they can, from what might have been, while those who care for them try to forget what else they had hoped to do. This is the new reality, and thinking of anything else is now an exercise in masochism.

Of course they tried fighting at first, tried flinging their fists at the invisible assailant, but inevitably they wore down. Now the world still revolves freely outside, but inside, here where illness lives, those taken hostage by it follow its rules and submit to its demands with a sort of glassy-eyed resignation. There is nothing else to do, after all, with no one to fight, and no one on the receiving end of an anger which rises, always, despite its futility.~jimmy~

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