This blog is part of the 30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge that was created by @cfs_zombie.  There is a brand new writing prompt every day (for 30 days) that relates to chronic illness and being chronically ill.  So far, I am finding the selection of topics to be interesting.  I feel like I am learning something just by writing about my chronic illnesses.

Day 4: How have your friends and family reacted to it?

My friends and family have reacted in different ways in regards to my chronic illnesses. I’ve already blogged about how my parents reacted in the post I wrote for Day 3 of this challenge. Long story short – they were in complete denial about the fact that I had chronic illnesses.

One of my brothers has severe allergies, too. He and I share many of them. One difference is that he is allergic to shellfish, while I am not. My brother was incredibly understanding about my allergies. He and I would share medication in high school. There were many times when we would hand each other unused kleenex or give the other person a desperately needed allergy medication.

My sister might not have been very aware of my allergies (or other chronic illness) when we were children. That being said, she does accept the fact that I have severe allergies. I needed to work around the food options at her wedding, and she didn’t have any problem with me doing that.

I could only have a small taste of her wedding cake, due to gluten allergies. I was a bridesmaid, and I suppose that some women would have been troubled by the fact that one of the people in the wedding party wasn’t going to eat (much) cake. We worked it out. We talked it over, and she suggested that I hand my mostly untouched slice of wedding cake to the groomsman whom I’d been paired up with. He is a good friend to both me and my sister – and he just so happened to have requested two pieces of cake. Everyone was happy!

My youngest brother also accepts that I have severe allergies. His son has some severe allergies, and my brother has consulted me for more information about allergies and treatment options.

There is an upcoming blog topic that asks what impact one’s chronic illness has on their partner. In order to avoid redundancy, I will discuss my husband’s reaction to my chronic illnesses at the same time I talk about the impact it has on him. Look for that in a much later blog post.

I can say, however, that his family has become very understanding about my chronic illnesses. His sister is willing to plan things out for family get-togethers so that I can avoid as much exposure to allergens as possible. Several people helpfully point out foods that they know contain something I am allergic to so I can avoid eating them (and avoid an allergic reaction). It’s nice. They are helping me stay safe.

My friends, over the years, have been mostly accepting of my chronic illnesses, even when not much was known about what I had or how to treat it. One of my close friends in high school would come over after school. Often, I had already passed out from severe fatigue. She would jump on the bed and wake me up. At the time, I found it amusing. I mean, she could have decided to call me “lazy”, or gotten frustrated that I’d fallen asleep. Instead, she found a fun way to deal with my chronic illnesses.

I used to work at a book store. Not everyone there was understanding about my allergies (and other chronic illnesses). This was especially true of managers who were more interested in making sure that they had enough staff working than whether or not I’d end up passing out from a severe allergy induced asthma attack on the sales floor.

Overall, my experience working in retail taught me that it is the worst possible type of job for a person who has health issues. I guess that can be expected from an industry that puts workers on swing shifts (that mess up their sleep schedule) and artificially creates an environment of constant, high, stress. It’s not healthy for anyone to live like that!

There were a couple of co-workers who had chronic illness of their own. Their illnesses were not the same as mine, but it didn’t matter. Together, we helped each other through the work day and provided emotional support and encouragement as needed.

In the past few years, I started being more open about my chronic illnesses. Previous to that I would try my best to “blend in” even if that meant acting like nothing was wrong when I was incredibly sick or in pain. I guess my concern was that people would start accusing me of “faking it” again.

It was uncomfortable at first, but I put effort into being more open about my chronic illness and the limitations they can put on me. As a result, many of the people who know me through work, gaming, podcasting, or blogging seem to understand that I am chronically sick. No one tries to push me to do something when I am way too sick to attempt it. I have found an incredibly tolerant, patient, and understanding group of friends.

My husband and I have two really close friends that live nearby. All of us have some sort of severe health issue that we must cope with. Everyone is very understanding. My friends have suggested that my chronic illnesses are severe enough for me to qualify for Social Security Disability.

I’ve been resisting trying to qualify for that form of help because I have concerns that the government will decide that I am “faking being sick”. I’m unsure if I have the emotional energy to, once again, try and convince someone who is supposed to be helping me that I actually do need the help I am requesting. I’ve also had some less than positive experiences with financial aid that comes from the government in the past (unemployment sucks).

But, with much encouragement, my friends have now convinced me to at least apply and see what happens. In other words, I guess I could say that my friends have reacted by trying to convince me to take the help that I deserve and need. They are good friends. I intend to start the application process sometime this month.

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